Immigration Reform 2013: Business Interests Trump Human Rights In This Debate


Last week, the New York Times published an article regarding an alleged "deal" between the forces of business and labor on immigration reform. The Times reports that Senator Charles E. Schumer reached an agreement "in principle" with Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, to allow for a guest worker program for low-skilled, year-round temporary workers. 

“This issue has always been the deal breaker on immigration reform, but not this time,” Schumer said.

What is different about this time? My theory is that business demands are impossible to ignore now. The Huffington Post reports that immigration reform may be a way to recruit more cheap labor legally.

"The time for reform is now, given that demand for more temporary workers is growing. Corporations and companies are asking for an increase in temporary worker visas," the Post reports.

It is rare to hear supply and demand so casually interspersed in a conversation about human rights. 

Going forward, therefore, immigrants and guest workers alike must be wary of employment opportunities that seem to good to be true. All new visas should come with a warning to beware of Trojans bearing gifts.

Regardless of motive, however, a logically constructed guest worker program is just what the doctor ordered. Studies have shown that immigrants usually return to Mexico after the seasonal work is completed. By tightening U.S. border control, the government has actually made the immigration problem worse. Illegals who go through the trials and tribulations to get here once now stay so that they do not have to risk the journey again.  A method to allow for migrant labor to come and go more easily will allow those seasonal immigrants to come and go with the seasons, as they want to do in the first place, instead of feeling stuck in the U.S. if they are lucky enough to make it in once.

The primary concern of groups like the AFL-CIO, apart from fighting to employ American citizens despite a greater supply of migrant labor, should be to ensure that the rights of our guest workers are upheld. It is not difficult to imagine that employers might be tempted to mistreat migrant labor or that labor laws may not be fully developed for the new class of American until after the guest worker program has been in place for several years. We must ensure that our guests, whom economics shows that we need so desperately, are treated fairly and with dignity.

One can only hope that this guest worker agreement will benefit all of those who it serves.