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A slow day at work, so... - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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A slow day at work, so... [Apr. 9th, 2007|02:19 pm]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

let's talk about Bush's proposed guest worker program.

First, the good. It does not consign workers to a permanent limbo of nonresidency with no hope of ever attaining citizenship. This is a huge improvement over previous proposals that would never permit persons who were undocumented to achieve legal permanent resident and, eventually, citizenship - a situation that is the perfect breeding ground for disaffection and vulnerability to recruitment by terrorist organizations.

It also attempts to address the fact that our economy relies heavily on undocumented workers to fill much of the low-paying job force out there. While it's all very nice to take the attitude that the market should bear the cost of paying a decent living wage, the reality is that the economic security of many Americans relies on the fact that they can get goods and services on the relative cheap. Raise the cost of food and sundries 25% or so and a lot of families are not going to make ends meet. Considering the current foreclosure crisis in this country, that's a forbidding proposistion. So keeping workers who are willing to work for minimum wage in jobs that need filling is a good thing.

Now, the bad. At $3,500 a pop, a vast majority of minimum wage workers are not going to be able to afford to get legal. I know attorneys who complain bitterly at having to scrape up the $350 their licenses cost them every couple years. If you're only making $14,000 a year, $3,500 is 25% of your annual income. Sure, it's only every three years, but there's no installment plan - the first time around you'll need to come up with the whole pile the first time. And saving over $1,000 a year when you're only making $14,000? Not bloody likely, not after expenses and sending money home to your family. Family of two undocumented workers=two $3,500 applications, because there is no procedure for "piggybacking" family onto a guest worker visa.

And that leads us to problem the second: the guest worker program does not include families. So if you are an undocumented worker with two kids, you now have the choice of staying below the radar screen or shipping your kids back home to relatives. (If you were lucky enough to give birth to them here in the states, that's not a problem; they are citizens by birth.) How many people are going to do that? Yes, schools do turn a blind eye to the undocumented students in their classrooms, but enforcement under the proposed rules would quite likely change. All other non-immigrant work visas allow other family members to enter the U.S. with the worker, but this visa will not.

Third, the mechanism by which a guest worker would petition for legal permanent residency is so cumbersome as to be almost impossible to attain. The proposal has the worker returning to her home country and petitioning for residency through the embassy there. But this is a process that would unduobtedly take at least time to complete, meaning that for some of these workers there might not be a job waiting for them on their return. And without a job, they would not be allowed to have visas - Catch-22.

The most popular work visa through which people obtain their legal permanent residency in the U.S. is the H-1B visa, a visa that requires proven levels of education, skill. But once such a visa is obtained, the alien is permitted to seek a labor certification and, if she fulfills the requirements of that visa, to adjust her status without leaving the country. Also, applying for permanent residency via a labor certification application costs only $195, while the guest worker - who almost certainly is making a lot less money than the labor certification applicant earns - must pay a $10,000 fine. That's 80% of a year's salary for this person.

Meaning that, for most people, the carrot of possible citizenship is illusory. And that fact could well mean that the disaffection mentioned above will be not only present for even more bitter.

Ending illegal immigration is about as feasible as winning the war on drugs, but something needs to be done. The something that is being proposed, though, is mostly just a dressed-up version of "nothing."
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: 28bytes
2007-04-09 06:51 pm (UTC)
It seems like it would be hard to craft a plan that would treat the people who are currently here illegally compassionately without encouraging a great deal more illegal immigration. I suppose you could grandfather people in who are already here, but that doesn't seem really fair to the people who aren't here but want to be.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 07:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, the grandfathering is a problem. It's been done, but its impact on reducing illegal immigration was minimal in the long run. And it is highly unfair to people who are waiting on long lists for the illegals to be allowed to "cut in line." It's not an easy question, not by any stretch of the imagination, and you will note that, while I am pointing out the flaws in this proposal, I am not accusing anyone of evil intent in its making.

I don't have the answers - it's just that this is not the answer, either.
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[User Picture]From: hugh_mannity
2007-04-09 06:59 pm (UTC)
I can't see how anyone could afford $3500 for a visa. I've been here 19 years on a green card and I still haven't gotten the $400 or so for citizenship together.

OK, my infamous authority problem doesn't help, but every time I've gotten close to $400 in disposable income together a more urgent need has arisen. Guess that's life as a single parent :(
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 07:16 pm (UTC)
Exactly. And it's $3500 every three years. That's harsh.
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[User Picture]From: darlox
2007-04-09 07:25 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's borderline "conspiracy theory", but I think this is just the way they want it. A program that looks like it might do something, but in reality will do nothing.

Now, the reason IMHO is that many illegals don't work for minimum wage. They work for below minimum wage... and sometimes significantly so. At least when you're talking about picking lettuce in California or apples in Washington, the pay-per-ton approach means that some workers can be making in the $2-3/hr range.

If suddenly they're documented, well then they have to be treated the same under the law as a US worker. Meaning the cost of picking produce has just doubled (or more, depending on the state). Those costs go up even higher if you now account for employer-share taxes, workers comp insurance, etc etc etc. All of the regulatory dreck we live with in this country, piled atop what was previously a cash-only proposition.

And, of course, while its entirely unrealistic to talk about a guest worker program that doesn't account for families, we also don't want their families coming over. As you mentioned, if two guest workers have a child on US soil, that child is a US citizen. Now it's infinitely more difficult to deport any of them, since you have a child who is legally entitled to be here, belonging to two parents who may not be. That's the sort of thing that gets caught up in the legal system for years while, meanwhile, the illegals move across the country and fade into the woodwork until ICE agents stumble upon them again.

It's a more complicated problem than "How do we deal with illegal immigration." It swirls down to everything from business regulation to a patchwork of state statutes, to global standards on birthright citizenship... (Google anchor babies, jackpot babies, or "birth tourism" for a fine selection of vindictive rants on the subject.)

If we document 'em, we have to treat 'em like humans. A pillar of the illegal immigrant issue is that the private sector can basically treat them like slaves. Only the government (schools, etc) is required to figure out some standardized regs for treating them equitably. The Yuma AZ shit-farmer can pay cash on the barrel to any desert rat willing to haul burlap sacks for 8 hours a day.

So, you're right. This legislation will do absolutely nothing. I believe that's precisely what it was intended to do.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 07:34 pm (UTC)
Truthfully, I wish they would be honest about it. They build fences and chase people down and lead to the incarcerations and even deaths of people who would be happy to just make their $3/hr for a couple months and then go the hell home. We're spending a fortune on interdiction while the economy demands that a blind eye is turned for enough people to do the underpaid work that all of us rely on.

Because if the price of lettuce tripled, the economy would suffer.
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[User Picture]From: darlox
2007-04-09 07:59 pm (UTC)
I too wish that most politicians would come right out and say what they really mean, committing political suicide in the process. ;)

Everyone realizes that the economy would suffer. But the unions want all the illegals as members. The hippies want them all to be guaranteed a living wage of $42,000/yr. The uber-conservatives want them all shot at sunrise.

The best way to be all things to all people on this one is by doing nothing.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 08:01 pm (UTC)
What? The american people don't want to know the truth?!

It does seem, frequently, that any attempt to fix a problem would lead to worse problems, and the best plan is no plan.

sigh.
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2007-04-09 09:20 pm (UTC)
There are a LOT, a LOT that work well above minimum wage. The savings to the employer is not paying taxes, social security, disability, workman's comp, etc. Many MANY illegal immigrants are making 10-20 an hour in construction and cleaning.

I know people who have gone to places that hire illegals looking for work and were turned down. Not friends of friends, my own husband. We suffered because of this. Six months without work I think? With actively going to job sites, looking for work. Sites that were sometimes raided so you can't say we made assumptions that they were illegal.

Need to get rid of the contractors that exploit these workers and hire them. At least we had a tiny bit of unemployment those months. Them? No work, no money. Accident? No workman's comp. So social security. Nothing. The ones making out aren't the American workers, aren't the immigrants, but the contractors/employers. They need to be punished.
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[User Picture]From: darlox
2007-04-09 09:47 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! Perhaps I was just too specific in my critique... I know that there are illegals making far above the minimum -- I was just using the stereotype of produce pickers out West as the example. (We have what I suspect, for various reasons, is a pair of illegals doing housekeeping at the hotel down the road.) But the point is still the same. A $10/hr worker, plus 12% employer-share taxes, plus worker's comp, plus ... still is probably a $13-$14/hr worker after you add up all the administravia. That's a 30-40% bump in labor costs.

I agree with your last statement, and think that they are doing a much better job with employer crack-downs lately. But that too is largely placebo -- it's to make some big visible examples of egregious violators so that people don't step too far across the line. But the point is that a 10% bump in hotel room prices, or 8% bump in the cost of manufactured widgets, or a 5% bump in the cost of janitorial services is still a significant increase. The cost of government regulation to producers is not something that will be quietly absorbed.

So it doesn't really matter how much or little they're making. The point is that if you legitimize these workers they will become more expensive, regardless of their base pay. Prices will go up, regulation will tighten. Whether it's good or bad is irrelevant. The plain fact, as zoethe correctly pointed out, is that the economy takes a hit when it costs businesses more to do business, and that's generally not a risk that ANY politician is going to willingly take on during their watch.
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From: authentichris
2007-04-09 08:02 pm (UTC)
I think that we need to allow the free migration of HUMAN capital.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 08:04 pm (UTC)
but don't you know that that would lead to ruin? The sky would fall, the American way would be lost forever. Dogs and cats, living together!!!
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[User Picture]From: lyssabard
2007-04-09 08:22 pm (UTC)
Mass hysteria!!
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[User Picture]From: ldygwynedd
2007-04-09 09:01 pm (UTC)
I read somewhere that the cost was going to be $1500 per year. Was that a mistake?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 09:08 pm (UTC)
According to the article I sawa, it's $3500 every 3 years.
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[User Picture]From: theinfamousmom
2007-04-09 09:04 pm (UTC)
The main problem with the plan is, as you pointed out, that it's been drawn up by rich people to whom those sums are trivial.

The basis of the plan is a good one--making sure that people take steps to get legal residency--but the price is just simply out of reach.

Surely someone can figure out a way to do this in such a way that gaining legal status is affordable, and the process of re-applying through an embassy in the person's country of origin doesn't take years. Of course, that would require that the politicians get their mitts off it and hire someone who actually knows what he/she is doing. Fat chance.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 09:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, but if you make them legal, you have to pay minimum wage. And there is an economy based on avoiding that.
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[User Picture]From: theinfamousmom
2007-04-09 09:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, definitely there is an economy based on not paying people minimum wage, because right now so many employers can easily get away with that. They're undoubtedly paying those workers under the table, too, so they're making a double score by not having to pay any taxes.

However, keep in mind that every time there's a proposed increase in the minimum wage, there is always a firestorm of protest about how the entire US economy is going to go to hell in a handbasket and people are going to lose their jobs and businesses are going to fail and yadda yadda yadda... and then if the legislators have enough nads to actually pass the increase, somehow or other the world fails to come to an end immediately afterwards.

I'm sure there would be considerable disruption if the newly legal workers had to be paid minimum wage--but it wouldn't be a permanent disruption. And forcing "Simon Legree, Inc." to quit breaking the law themselves might not be such a bad thing either, in the long run.
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2007-04-09 09:14 pm (UTC)
You know -- undocumented workers aren't all making $1 a hour, doing grueling work 16 hours a day. Many of them are making $10-$20 an hour and the employers are saving by not paying taxes, social security, disability, workman's comp, unemployment, benefits. These people should be able to come up with this money. People in these industries are construction and cleaning. They are making an OK living. And there are plenty of them.

Also, aren't many of the children born here? I saw that in the paper recently, how many born here, who are citizens, have parents awaiting deportation, and how sometimes the kids stay with friends, relatives, and other times they go back home with the parents, even if they don't know the original language.

Something needs to be done, though, nothing more frustrating than my husband, his family, going from job site to job site, getting turned down because they are citizens and are legal and may actually want to pay taxes and the like. So much for the BS that they do jobs no one wants.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-09 09:22 pm (UTC)
Employers who hire illegals for jobs like that deserve to be hammered by the government. Your husband should be reporting them. That's unconscionable.

You are absolutely right that my comments do not address all issues of illegal workers. It's a huge and complex problem.
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2007-04-09 09:25 pm (UTC)
311 was on speed dial, but he would only call if he saw job site violations (which he has to know backwards and forwards -- that's the good thing about apprentice programs, you KNOW the rules). Illegals are harder, because they won't just go to a site because people are speaking Polish or Spanish -- and it is such a touchy situation.

But sometimes they would hammer a site, you'd find out OSHA was there, Dept of Buildings, City Planning, whatever the heck they call Immigration now, etc. A beautiful thing.

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[User Picture]From: thanoslug
2007-04-09 09:23 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that a big problem our country has is actually enforcing laws that are on the books. It is a problem that I have seen in industry as well - rather than enforce rules and procedures when a worker does not follow them, they make new rules and procedures to hedge around the old ones. If the person did not follow the old procedures, why do you think they will follow the new ones?

When it comes to illegal immigration, as with many other things, we need to enforce the laws that are there. If you are here illegally you need to be sent back home - period.

I have no problem with immigration, it is a good thing that has been a great boon to our nation. But it needs to be done through the legal channels. Now, perhaps our method of allowing legal immigrants into our country needs to be looked at to streamline it, but that is another discussion.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-10 12:57 am (UTC)
If our founding fathers had taken that approach we'd still be paying taxes to the Queen. It's lovely to think that if we just all played by the rules everything would be hunky dory, but that does not account for the real world.
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[User Picture]From: thanoslug
2007-04-10 01:16 pm (UTC)
LoL - if anyone is going to revolt it should be the actual citizens of our great nation against a government that doesn't enforce its own laws and is unable to be fiscally responsible no matter which party is in office lately. Your response would only apply if one thinks that our laws against illegal immigration are horribly bad ones in line with the way our country was treated by the crown at that time and I hardly think that is the case. We have methods of legally entering our country - use them.

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[User Picture]From: lacey
2007-04-09 11:40 pm (UTC)
The something that is being proposed, though, is mostly just a dressed-up version of "nothing."

(stage whisper) Which is something the Bush administration excels at!

...ahem.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2007-04-10 08:56 pm (UTC)
The H-1B crisis is a giant headache for companies - and the worst kind of immigration policy.
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