Immigrants say guest worker plan won't workWell duh!
SAN BENITO - Jose Luis Vazquez and Elia Garcia know what they're talking about when they predict that new immigrants crossing the border under the U.S. Senate's temporary guest-worker program won't go home.
They each came over illegally more than a decade ago. They have children, jobs and houses - a life that would be difficult to dismantle because of a date on the calendar.
While the immigration plan would allow Vazquez and Garcia to stay - after paying fines and back taxes, and learning English - newcomers would compete for one of 200,000 temporary guest worker visas that would be issued each year.
President Bush called for such a plan last month on the theory that these immigrants would earn enough money to help their families and then move home.
The guest-worker idea has strong appeal among such industries as construction, where nearly one-third of the work force are immigrants.
But some immigration experts say temporary worker programs have never worked in free market societies because as workers become used to higher wages and start to assimilate, they don't want to go back. It's even harder to return once children are born here, making them automatic Americans, and the Senate bill allows for spouses of workers also to obtain visas.
"I think the general conclusion of everybody who has studied guest or temporary worker programs is that they are never as advertised," said Michael Teitelbaum, a demographer with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York. "They are never temporary programs, nor are the workers temporary."
Fewer than half the "Bracero" workers brought in to work the farms in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War went home, said Vernon Briggs, a labor economist at Cornell University.
"These things are a disaster," he said. "They don't stop illegal immigration. What they basically do is encourage people to keep coming."
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