Having passed some of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the nation, Arizona legislators, faced with a mass exodus of essential workers and pressure from business interests, are talking about reversing their previous stance and now want to actively recruit immigrant workers to the state. But of course with some conditions …
They want a guest worker program, limited to agricultural workers that "doesn't lead to citizenship, doesn't lead to permanent status, can't bring family with you, can't come here and have your babies, can't come here and be a burden on the taxpayer, come here, work, earn your wages, pay your taxes and go home when it's done" … Essentially, a return to a bracero style program of the past.
This, despite overwhelming evidence that current guest worker programs are a dismal failure, supplying nothing but misery for their participants while assuring profits for what become in essence government sanctioned plantations.
The failures of current guest worker programs are numerous and systemic as evidenced by this testimony by Mary Bauer, Director of the Immigration Justice Program at the Southern Poverty Law Center before the House Education and Labor Committee.
But these abuses have not been limited to just agricultural workers or those from Mexico or South/Central America. Importation of modern day indentured servants has become a global industry.
The answer to our failed immigration system is not to perpetuate and expand on failed policies, or return to exploitive and discriminatory practices of the past. Allowing workers to be treated as commodities, to be traded across borders at will to the lowest bidder, is no substitute for true reform of the system.
Anti-immigrant advocates like Russell Pearce, having had their plans blow in their face, now look for alternatives to prevent the severe economic consequences of their actions.
But allowing them to codify indentured servitude to placate angry business interests is not the answer. As they finally come to terms with the economic reality that immigrant workers are the backbone of their economy, let them now come to terms with the ramifications of that fact … the only answer is to reform the immigration system to respect and protect the human rights and dignity of all people. Anything less would be nothing more than a return to braceros.