During a recent swing through the border states of the Southwest, President George W. Bush talked tough about border security and proposed a guest worker program. La Voz, a Spanish-language newspaper in Phoenix, quoted sources on November 30 as saying that nearly 11 million now-illegal immigrants could benefit from such a program. I say, why not?
Until September 11, 2001, the principal concern at the border was legal; our laws say all persons entering the country should use establised (legal) procedures and points of entry. There were also economic issues regarding the millions of low-paying, largely unskilled jobs the illegal immigrants were taking. Since September 11, the main concern is security, with the economic and legal issues taking a back seat. It’s as easy for terrorists to cross the border as it is for workers headed to the citrus groves. In short, the flow of illegal immigrants across our long land border with Mexico must be stopped, as a matter of national security. (Come to think of it, the same holds true for our border with Canada.)
There’s no easy fix for the economic issues. Any changes will have to be put into place gradually, so as not to shock the system. But the guest worker program could serve that purpose while also handling the legality question. Without granting amnesty to anyone, many of the workers now in the United States illegally could become legal, documented residents without a tremendous deal of fuss. I favor a grace period during which illegal immigrants can register themselves, get a work permit, and stay for a legal length of time. The process has to be easy and non-threatening, but with strong incentives for the now-illegals.
What do you think?