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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Thursday, January 08, 2004


Temporary support for temporary workers
I haven't decided what, exactly, I think about Bush's recently unveiled temporary worker program. My first inclination is to favor it, and I think I'm going to go with that, for now--like LT Smash and unlike most everyone at National Review. My temporary support rests on four main bulwarks

First, I am a fan of immigration. I think it is good for this country, and downright necessary for it's health if the birth rate keeps decreasing. However, I am not a fan of illegal immigration--illegal meaning against the law, and all that. But...

Second, this would legitimitize and regulate something already happens consistently and regularly and is, to a large extent, already accepted de facto. Without illegal immigrants, who picks our fruit? Americans aren't going to move out to the countryside in the droves needed to get all our apples picked, but migrant famers do and will. There are already government programs set up to deal with them specifically, and they aren't going away (the immigrants or the programs), so we may as well provide a structure for it. Now, unlike in arguments of this stripe made about marijuana legalization, which I oppose, this plan will not increase that which it will regulate--namely, immigration other than the current only legal variety. In fact, I think it will decrease overall that which is now called illegal immigration. This is because...

Third, providing an acceptable "middle way" between fully documented and illegal will enable the government to crack down on truly illegal immigration. If there is a relatively painless way of coming to the US to work and send money home, then there will be no excuses not to tighten the border and deport illegals. In fact, unless the INS does crack down, there will be little incentive for illegals to shift to this temporary status, and so I think this sort of thing is implied in the very nature of the beast.

And fourth, because this could be good for American job-seekers as well--according to Bush, "Employers who extend job offers must first make every reasonable effort to find an American worker for the job at hand. Our government will develop a quick and simple system for employers to search for American workers." This way, the homeless, jobless and otherwise down-on-their-luck types that really are willing to take migrant worker type jobs will actually have a way to get to them. If all the precautions Bush outlines are taken, this will actually help the unemployment rate, rather than hinder it.

The arguments against this seem rather weak. Most conservatives who have come out against this plan apparently think that all the precautions Bush is taking are just window-dressing for an amnesty program. They can't seem to see this as anything different actual calls for blanket amnesty, and argue against it as if it were such.

John Derbyshire and the New York Times are calling this "an amnesty, in all but name." But this is entirely different than amnesty. Amnesty is an admition that what we've tried doing hasn't worked, so we're going to start over and try again--without changing anything. This proposal, on the other hand, should make all further calls for amnesty, or anything like it, completely moot. It actually corrects a problem as a one time event, rather than just being one in a long line of amnesties.

Also at National Review, Mark Krikorian argues that this sort of thing is bad because it stifles innovation by providing cheap labor. But is innovation an end in and of itself? If guest workers provide the same effect, then that's just as good as any innovation.

But I have concerns. How will it be implemented? How much will it cost? How will employers react to it? How will the immigrants themselves react to it? What will this do to the job market in reality? I'm really not clear on these things, and so I'm keeping my support for it temporary for now.

UPDATE: I just thought of another question for this plan--how will it define a job? By duties, or by duties and wages? If it is solely by duties, then there's no such thing as "jobs Americans won't do," because if you pay people enough, they'll do any job. But if it is by duties and wages, what is to stop employers from lowering the salary for jobs currently filled by Americans enough that Americans don't want to do those either?
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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