The NYT today ran an editorial calling for strengthened protections for guest workers. The editorial is particulary concerned about temporary workers who arrive on a visa that ties them to one employer and they lose that visa status (and ability to remain illegally) if they leave that employer. That situation creates a power differential between the temporary immigrant and the employer and encourages abuse. The many abuses of immigrant workers going on also indicates U.S. workers wages are being undercut by the availability of a pool of exploitable temporary labor. Indeed if there is so much abuse, where is the NYT's call for nixing proposals that expand foreign worker programs?
Disturbingly, it seems that all versions of the immigration reform bills are in favor of expanding rather than reducing temporary worker programs. The common justification for these programs seem to be a shortage of U.S. workers, whether at the high tech end of the job market or at the agricultural jobs. The calls to expand temporary worker programs on top of 15 year waits for citizenship create too many gradations of persons in our society who have disparate levels of legal rights and protections. Is this developing situation compatible with a society that calls itself free and democratic?
Why is no one asking whether there are true labor shortages or whether U.S. employers are simply not paying wages U.S. workers will work for so they have to rely on temporary foreign labor? In the rush to come up with comprehensive immigration reform, one of the bitter pills to swallow may be an expansion of a temporary worker programs.