Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 7, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

ANOTHER TROJAN HORSE?....I'm not really sure yet what to think of George Bush's proposed immigration reform, but I'll give you my gut reaction: it's a Trojan horse. Bush has proven himself masterful at proposing legislation in which the headline summary is "compassionate":

Under Mr. Bush's proposal, which effectively amounts to an amnesty program for illegal immigrants with jobs in the United States, an undocumented worker could apply for temporary worker status here for an unspecified number of years, with all the employee benefits, like minimum wage and due process, accorded to those legally employed.

But the fine print contains some doozies:

Under Mr. Bush's proposals, an undocumented worker and an employer would have to apply for the guest worker program hand in hand, with the employer serving as the sponsor for the worker. There would also be a fee to register for the program, but officials would not say how much that would be.

....Administration officials acknowledge that the wait for a green card could take up to six years or longer, meaning that some guest workers who apply for green cards but do not receive them before their guest worker status expires would face the prospect of being forced to leave the United States.

For the time being I'll stay on the fence about this, but it's hard not to think of Bush's proposal as just an updated version of the infamous bracero program under which millions of Mexican farm workers provided low-wage labor in U.S. fields for more than two decades after World War II. Overall, I'm not thrilled with the idea of a "guest worker" program that essentially indentures a worker to a particular employer and provides no assurance of permanent residence, so while I'm generally in favor of more liberal immigration laws, I figure we should either let immigrants in or we shouldn't and quit playing games about it.

What's more, this sounds all too typical of a Bush program, and I suspect there will be more bad news as the details are released. The Bushies rarely have the courage to push a genuinely conservative agenda, which they know is unpopular, but instead hide conservative time bombs in legislation that's clothed in the rhetoric of traditional liberalism. I suspect that this is happening yet again with this proposal, so I'll withhold judgment until I hear more about it.

Kevin Drum 10:39 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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