David Abraham on the US Guest Worker Proposal

My erudite colleague David Abraham, himself a guest worker at Princeton this semester, has a great column at the top of the New York Times op-ed page today, American Jobs but Not the American Dream.

In it, he persuasively describes the Bush proposal as “a classic guest worker program on the European model” and then sets out all the ills that flow from adopting guest worker programs — “drawbacks [that] far outweigh their advantages.”

Among the problems — large foreign low-wage populations tend to create ghettos; once people set down roots, they don't want to go home; making residence depend on employment tends to create opportunities for exploitation by the employer; the US's lack of strong labor unions makes this problem likely to be even worse here than it was in European countries such as Germany that tried the guest worker concept.

And, as David so eloquently put it,

President Bush has clearly expressed his intention to put employers in charge: guest workers will be selected by employers and will be able to remain in the United States only so long as they stay with the employer who brought them. This is a sure recipe not only for the exploitation of these “guests” but also for the depression of American wages generally, especially among those who can least afford it — many of them immigrants.

The United States has always been a “welcoming country,” as the president said, “open to the talents and dreams of the world.” But this plan is an abandonment of America's ideals, not an expression of them. It values immigrants' talents over their dreams. Instead of hope, it offers them simply a job.

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One Response to David Abraham on the US Guest Worker Proposal

  1. Michelle says:

    In response to Mr. Abraham’s remarks in “American Jobs but Not the American Dream”, I would like to say that he might to research the Hispanic people living in the United States a bit more thoroughly. Many of the Hispanic population here in Central Georgia are already living in what he calls “ghetto” conditions. This proposal gives these people the hope of attaining better healthcare and benefits that they are cheated out of today. The employers would actually have to pay their workers overtime, holiday pay, and workers’ compensation if hurt on the job. Many of the Hispanic communities here in the U.S. work for less than adequate conditions. Their only purpose, however, is to make enough money to help support their families back home. Also, many of these people do not want to be here permanently. Many are afraid to go home because they can’t afford to return should they want to. The proposal is renewable and the possibility of return is not completely out of the question.
    This proposal does not solve all of the problems associated with the illegal immigrants in this country but it is a step in the right direction. If there were no possibility of renewal, then, yes, after the first three years were up, the problems would be back. They might be regardless. No bill or proposal has a guarantee of perfection but, given the opportunity, this might work toward a better future for everyone.

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