Liberal Grace

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I agree with Bush on work visas -- but for different reasons.

Bush wants work visas to exploit cheap immigrant labor. I want work visas to increase their pay.

Bush is out stumping for immigration reform and he seems to think that he'll do better with an Democratic congress than with his own cranky, xenophobic party.

Bush Renews Push on Immigration Proposal

President Bush boasted of tougher enforcement along the Mexican border Monday as he tried to revive his stalled efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration laws. Many of his fellow Republicans in Congress are opposing him.

Frustrated by his failure to get a bill approved last year when the GOP was in charge, Bush said prospects look brighter in the Democratic Congress. "I think the atmosphere up there is good right now," he said.

His message — particularly to conservative critics from his own party — was that stepped-up border enforcement is working and it's time to adopt a temporary worker program, hold U.S. employers accountable for the workers they hire and resolve the status of the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States.
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1) It's reasonable that illegal residents should have to leave before they can apply for a legitimate visa.

I have lived in several countries and this is the standard rule -- not just for illegal residents but for any visa status change.

If you don't have such a rule, it encourages what is often called "visa jumping" i.e. come in on a tourist visa and then get a job.

2) A fairly high penalty is reasonable.

$10,000 does seem too high to me. It needs to be high enough to send a message but low enough that will take the offer.

3) A fee for a work visa is reasonable.

Again, $3,500 seems to high.

I, myself, am on a guest worker visa here in Dubai and it didn't cost anything like that. As I understand it, most of these fees are reciprocal and that same fee will be charged Americans who want to live overseas.

Whatever the fee is, it should be significantly lower than what an illegal immigrant would pay a coyote to get here.

Even a fee of $3,500 is much cheaper than what people are paying now to come from China external link which can be tens of thousands of dollars! But for Mexicans the fee is somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000. external link

So, if the US wants to undercut the "coyotes" then it should be more like $500 to $1,000.

4) It's reasonable to penalize employers for hiring illegals.

Businesses have similar requirements -- not to hire children for instance -- where the burden is on them to do honest work. They aren't allowed to buy stolen products or knock-offs.

But I suspect there is merit in their complaint that it's hard to verify a visa -- that's where a legal quest worker visa makes sense -- so that there's a system to check with.

5) Let the workers unionize with decent wages and benefits

This is where I Bush and probably part ways.

I really resent Bush when he says
... a temporary worker plan that recognizes there are hardworking people here doing jobs Americans won't do.external link
This is an insult to the American workers. I, myself, have picked apples and shoveled crap... when I didn't need a living wage. I've also worked non-union construction before cheap immigrant labor make that a poor paying job.

Yes, most Americans don't want to do the hardest jobs at Mexican wages. But pay Americans a fair wage and they'll do just about anything.

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