Adam Serwer at Mother Jones wrote a very comprehensive article about the problems that plague guest worker programs. I have always been skeptical of guest worker programs and am uneasy that the pending legislation seeks to expand these programs, not contract them. Serwer sums up the problems of these programs that bring temporary workers to the U.S. but do not grant them a path to citizenship here:
The problem is in the nature of the concept: Guest workers often don't want to be "guests"; they want to live and work here, and often overstay their visas. Employers can easily use guest workers' immigration status to exploit them, and their visas are often tied to their employer, so they can't simply seek work elsewhere. Nevertheless, there are jobs Americans don't really want to do, and they end up being filled by immigrants one way or another.
The pending legislation claims to solve some of these problems by creating a new W visa which would not tie employees to one employer; employees could find another job, but they must do so in 2 months or lose their legal immigration status. But that W visa will not replace the H-2b visa under which the women in Serwer's story were exploited under--it would be in addition to it. The senate legislation also promises a long and winding path to citizenship for these workers. I wouldn't hold my breath giving all the enforcement triggers before benefits roll out.One of the representatives of guest workers said the following in the Mother Jones article:
Jennifer Rosenbaum, legal director at the National Guestworker Alliance, says that since the bill would legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants, she doesn't see the need for a guest worker program. "It doesn't make any sense except that they want a captive workforce—they don't just want workers," Rosenbaum says.
In the end , it's about businesses wanting to hire docile workers at rock bottom prices, legally. I have blogged before about why wedding enforcement with benefits in the same bill is a bad idea and does not create coherent immigration policy with a vision of the national interest.