Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest worker plan for Utah?

Utah has recently been in the news regarding immigration for all the wrong reasons: a 1300-person name blacklist with personal information on suspected undocumented immigrants was circulated to the press and police. While two state employees have been fired and could face criminal charges the silver lining from the ugly incident could be an emerging constructive dialogue on immigration.

On Tuesday, 31 local community leaders ranging from the co-founder of Utah’s Minutemen to Latino activists gathered in Salt lake City as part of an immigration reform roundtable. Gov. Gary Herbert’s “immigration summit” at times became tense between those who favor strongly restricting immigration with those seeking a more inclusive policy. Nonetheless most at the meeting reportedly agreed that Utah should start its own guest worker program. One possible plan as introduced by State Sen. Howard Stephenson would have employers post a $20,000 bond per worker while the laborer would pay a deposit to ensure that he stays at his job. A similar proposal from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce would require a two-year contract and potential employees to submit themselves to medical and criminal background checks.

The guest worker plans are not without their problems, however; chef among these is the potential that they could violate federal law prohibiting employers from knowingly hiring those ineligible from legal employment. Some politicos claimed that a guest worker program would be “impractical” though one business leader believed that it would be mostly beneficial:
Randy Parker, of the Utah Farm Bureau, said one rancher reported that 300 of his lambs died because Peruvian migrant workers were delayed by 30 days during a critical lambing period.

Parker said workers fear that, if they return to their native countries, they won’t be able to return the next year. Consequently, many overstay their permits.
An historical antecedent to Utah’s potential guest worker plans could be the federal Bracero Program that ran from 1942 to 1964.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Democracy Now, Herald Extra,, Salt Lake Tribune, Wikipedia
Image - New York Times ("Braceros, here in 1963, were often farmhands.")


Anonymous said...

from de Clermont - finally some people get it!!! The problem is not with the Arizona law but with the employment system for non-resident immigrants (illegal if they do enter the USA w/out proper documentation) - A GUEST WORKER PROGRAMME. This is what needs to be done at the federal level as the federal government has oversight with immigration. But, the Obama administration does not have the albondigas and or the intelligence to address it in a constructive fashion. Such a system would allow foreigners to find temporary employment and they could be matched to their potential employers through a nationwide data base. The workers could actually CHOOSE the kind of jobs beforehand in most cases without having to take what is presented to them due to urgency to buy food to survive. Additionally, this kind of system would also create in many cases a more fair wage level for the less desirable jobs - they would not be chosen until the employers increased the wages to a reasonable level. What a concept?! Worker Rights for those that were previously illegals!? AND they would be better protected as concerns A) Guest Worker human rights and B) their social security monies. Employers could pay a minimum fee to the US government for each employee hired thus subsidising the operational cost for the US taxpayers (there is a difference between US taxpayers and US citizens. The bottom 40% do not pay taxes, but they use the services and vote for Obama.) Unless the US government addresses this issue head on, they are forfeiting their legal mandate to fully handle immigration issues. ¡¡¡VIVA UTAH!!!

Anonymous said...
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Erwin C. said...

Perhaps the real reason why a federal guest program hasn't been implemented in a widespread manner a la Braceros is more than just the White House's passivity. The H2-A guest worker program has had problems with the inhumane treatment of migrants brought in from South American countries to herd sheep in Colorado. Mind you, this shouldn't disqualify guest worker programs from being part of an overall immigration reform. But for it to be truly effective workers' rights need to be ensured.

Anyway, thanks for your comment and here's a link to more details on the Colorado case if you (or anyone else) wishes to read it: