We need answers with guest worker proposal | SierraSun.com

We need answers with guest worker proposal

Sierra Sun opinion

The pivotal role that immigrants from Mexico and South America play in the local economy is undeniable: We see it nearly everywhere we go, in nearly every purchase we make of goods and services. And thus far, it has been a role filled mostly with illegal immigrants.

This week, President Bush outlined in vague terms his hopes for a temporary worker program that will make many of the immigrants already here temporarily legal and will open the door for future workers from foreign countries to fill jobs in the United States that would not be otherwise filled by Americans. While the idea has merit and has worked in the past, Americans – especially Californians, where the number of Hispanic workers is greatest – need more details about how the plan will work and what safeguards it will employ against carte blanche access to foreigners.

— Under the Bush plan, illegals workers already here would receive a three-year visa to continue working, with the option of applying for an extension, although he has not said how long an extension could last.

Considering the reality of our local and statewide workforce, this concept seems legitimate, although a solid limitation to the length of time a foreign worker can stay here is necessary in the plan’s final draft. These workers are citizens of another country and, barring acquisition of a U.S. green card, should return.

— Under the Bush plan, workers would have to be sponsored by employers, and some sort of guaranty has to be made that an American would not fill the job opening.

Conceptually, this idea sounds reasonable, but a strictly monitored set of requirements needs to be put into place to ensure it is met. For example, will there be safeguards to stop an employer from bussing immigrants across the border without first filling openings with local workers?

Recommended Stories For You

— Bush has said the move helps U.S. immigration officials monitor our borders against foreign threats.

To achieve true border security, a foolproof system of identifying and tracking foreign workers must be part of the equation. Identification based on fingerprinting, retinal scans, DNA or an equivalent method must be put into place and used every time a worker crosses the border. When a worker has overstayed his or her visa, they must be deported.

Identification must also be monitored by the United States, independent of foreign governments (Mexico’s questionable Matriculas Consulare cards are a good example of unreliable identification). Workers’ backgrounds must be checked, and those with a criminal history or previous immigration violation must be barred from participation in the program.

— Bush has not addressed the potential for costs/benefits for state and county social services.

If a temporary visa program is adopted, will it add an additional burden to social services in this country, especially services such as welfare and healthcare that are already suffering under illegal immigration? If so, how will we offset the costs?

Anybody who conducts business or consumes goods and services in the U.S. knows immigrants are key to the economy’s livelihood and that a system that allows illegal workers to work legally needs to be adopted. But until we know the plan will take measures to protect the American quality of life, we can’t accept it.