Go to Shusterman.com for amendment by amendment summaries of the bill. I could not find any that materially affected the guest workers provisions. In fact, the Senate decisively turned down on 5/16 an amendment to remove the guest worker title to the act (see below). As I have noted before, the whole issue of identification requirements is held hostage by bureaucratic delays and confusion about getting these IDs in place, and that will take yearsto resolve.
The Liberty Post summarized the floor debate and final vote 69- 28 against an amendment to repeal the guest worker provision.
Senator Dorgan then offered amendment #4017, to repeal the guest worker program in S.2611 (Title IV).
The Senator stated that if you read the paper or see the news, you see the new corporate strategy everywhere: export good jobs and import cheap labor. This, he said, was probably a good strategy for profits, but a horrible strategy for America. We built the middle class with good jobs and good wages, he said.
“What if the U.S. had no immigration laws at all?” Senator Dorgan asked. Massive numbers of immigrants would come. It is not selfish, he said, to be somewhat protective of our standard of living and our way of life. There are many voices here speaking for immigrants, but we have a responsibility to our citizens and there is precious little talk about them in this chamber these days. “Let me speak for a moment on behalf of American workers.”
Senator Dorgan decried the argument that “guest workers” are needed to take the jobs Americans won’t do. He argued that Americans want these jobs and are doing these jobs. The Senator criticized the 325,000 cap coupled with the automatic 20% escalator provision. He stated that this formula would result in 10 million guest workers in 10 years. He concluded that the guest worker provision of the bill wasn’t about filling empty jobs, but was about “importing cheap labor.” The Senator said that guest workers could more appropriately be termed “low wage replacement workers.”
Senator Specter spoke out against the Dorgan amendment. He said he agreed with the argument that these are jobs Americans won’t do, although he said it perhaps was not universally true.
Senator Boxer stood up in favor of the Dorgan amendment. She said while she felt there was a need for agricultural guest workers found in the AgJOBS portion of the bill, the guest worker program in Title IV was entirely too open-ended. She said she did not believe the argument that these were jobs Americans won’t do, adding that these jobs are already being done in large part by Americans. Senator Boxer argued that if the guest worker provision were taken out, the bill would be better for it.
Senator Sessions also spoke in favor of the Dorgan amendment. He argued that there was nothing “temporary” about the guest worker program. The guest workers can apply for a green card through their employers the first day they are here. Or, after four years, they can apply for a green card on their own. He explained that with a beginning annual cap of 325,000 combined with an automatic 20% escalator, the increase in immigration is “extraordinary.” He urged his colleagues to think seriously about what they are doing.
Senator McCain opposed the Dorgan amendment. He thanked President Bush for his speech Monday night and said the President gave an outstanding depiction of the situation in the U.S. The Senator said he agreed with the President’s statement that all elements of the immigration problem need to be addressed or none will be solved at all.
Senator McCain then stated that the reason the 1986 bill didn’t work was because it did not have a guest worker program. He said our population is getting older, restaurants are locking their doors because there is no one to serve the food. We need a viable guest worker program to stop the flow of illegal aliens, he said. He compared the immigration crisis to the so-called “war on drugs” and said that like drugs, there would always be a demand for foreign workers.
Yet no one should mistake this for another Bracero program, said Senator McCain. One of the biggest evils of illegal immigration is how innocent people are exploited. He said that the guest worker program was a fundamental part of the bill—if this is taken out, the country will be faced with the same economic pressures of the past.
Senator Specter moved to table the Dorgan amendment. The motion prevailed, 69-28.