Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whining starts about lack of guest worker program in Gutierrez bill

Like dogs salivating to the sound of a dinner bell, it didn’t take long for the forces of the status quo to weigh in on the new immigration bill unveiled yesterday by Rep. Luis Gutierrez(D-IL) with their usual reflexive reactions

Of course, from the wingnutosphere we got the usual "amnesty" canard:

On Capitol Hill, the bill was declared dead on arrival by some Republicans — and, privately, by some Democrats — and denounced as impractical and amounting to amnesty for people who had entered the country illegally. Two previous Congressional efforts to revamp immigration laws in the Bush years failed largely because of similar objections.

Representative Brian Bilbray, a California Republican who heads the House Immigration Reform Caucus, said the bill would only generate a new wave of migrants to compete with Americans for jobs at a time of 10 percent unemployment.


As far as Bilbray goes, we’ve come to expect little more from the former chief lobbyist for the hate-group, Federation for American Immigration Reform. It's pretty safe to assume that FAIR, NumbersUSA, The Congressional Immigration Caucus and the whole of the wingnut media machine will be crying "shamnesty, shamnesty" before this time tomorrow. It's a well-worn and dog-eared page from the right-wing playbook.

But unlike in past immigration battles, this one has the corporatist wings of both parties with their panties in a wad also. In large part due to the fact that Rep Gutierrez had the nerve to introduce a "comprehensive immigration bill" without a guest worker program…(like "comprehensive" is somehow synonymous with exploitable, temporary, indentured servants)

Democrats in the Senate who would steer an immigration overhaul through that chamber generally welcomed Mr. Gutierrez’s bill, though aides said it was too liberal to win passage as written.

The bill lacks a broad program championed by many Republicans, as well as Democrats including Mr. Obama, to address future labor demands and to better control the flow of immigration. To do that, they have advocated a program under which people could work only temporarily in the United States and then return home. Instead, the bill calls for a federal commission to study the best approach for the “future flows of workers.”

“In order for immigration reform to be effective, it needs to be comprehensive,” said Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who collaborated with Mr. Gutierrez on previous immigration bills but not this one. “Any bill without a temporary worker program is simply not comprehensive.”

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, is working with some Republicans on a separate bill that he has said could be ready whenever Mr. Obama asked for it..

Despite the protestations of Mr Flake, (whose most memorable contribution to the reform debate thus far was the failed STRIVE act of 2007 with it's triggers, touchbacks and flaming hoops of fire through which to jump before allowing the undocumented to normalize status), temporary workers are not the ONLY way to "address future labor demands and to better control the flow of immigration".

In fact if he (or the NYT reporter who wrote this article, for that matter) actually read the bill proposed by Rep Gutierrez, he would have seen it contained perhaps the most effective method to address both labor demands and future immigration flow we've seen in any of the myriad of immigration reform proposals that have come down the pike in the last few years.

Rather than letting business interests, with their insatiable need for cheap, exploitable labor, dictate the flow of immigration through both legal and illegal channels, Gutierrez's bill creates a new antonymous regulatory agency within the executive branch solely charged with setting both policy and specific levels for all future employment-based immigration.

Perhaps it was the title of this new government agency, the "Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets" that threw Mr Archibold, of the NYT off and led him to believe that it was nothing more than "study group"…or maybe he just didn't do the necessary research, or perhaps he enjoys caring water for the likes of Flake…who knows.



(1) IN GENERAL.—There is established a permanent, independent, Federal agency within the Executive Branch of the United States to be known as the Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets

(2) PURPOSES.—Through objective, thorough, accurate and nonpartisan review and analysis, the purposes of the Commission are to—
(A) establish employment-based immigration policies that promote America’s economic growth and competitiveness while minimizing job displacement, wage depression and unauthorized employment in the United States;
(B) create and implement a policy-focused research agenda on the economic impacts of immigration at the national, regional, state, industry and occupation levels;
(C) collect and analyze information about employment-based immigration and the labor market and share the data and analysis with lawmakers, researchers and the American public;
(D) recommend to the Congress and the President on a regular basis an evidence-based methodology for determining the level of employment-based immigration; and
(E) recommend to Congress and the President the numeric levels and characteristics of workers to be admitted in various employment based visa categories.

So, the "Commission" not only sets up policy guidelines, and collects and analyzes data, it determines the exact number to be issued and make-up of the various employment-based visa categories. But I guess that doesn’t constitute, "addressing future labor demands, or controlling immigration flow" in the minds of those who can't see beyond the bottom lines of their patrons balance sheets…. And the need for disposable cheap workers to maintain them.

The Commission shall be composed of 7 voting members

* who shall be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate
* who shall serve for 5-year staggered terms;
* one of whom the President shall appoint as Chair of the commission to serve a 6-year term, which can be extended for 1 additional 3-year term;
* who shall have expertise in economics, demography, sociology, labor, business, civil rights, immigration or other pertinent qualifications or experience; and
* not more than 4 of whom may be members of the same political party;

I guess they believe that an independent, bi-partisan panel of experts, with actual knowledge of things like economics and demography couldn't possibly do a better job than a bunch of politicians and lobbyists at figuring out what the best level of future employment-based immigration should be. And they would like to see the great success we've had with health care reform efforts led by bought-and-paid-for politicians and their lobbyist puppet masters replicated in immigration reform as well.

While this new extension of the executive branch is far from a perfect solution to the problem of how best to address and regulate future immigration flow, and can still have its recommendations voted down by a hostile congress, it's far superior to the ridiculous notion that exploiting guest workers is somehow a method of immigration regulation or that guest worker programs are somehow responsive to both the economic and social needs of both the American people and those who to wish to come here and make a better life….so let the whining begin. …we couldn't stop them if we tried anyway.

And I'm sure it won’t be long before the champion of human-rights and justice, Chuck Schummer, comes up with some kind of Frankenstein monster of a compromise bill with his republican buddies that will re-introduce the much beloved guest worker paradigm into the equation.

But until then, at least Gutierrez has given us a reasonable and workable alternative. …and a glimpse at some of the creative thinking that will be necessary to finally address immigration reform in a meaningful way.


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