"To secure the border effectively, we must reduce the numbers of people trying to sneak across. Therefore, I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country..."
Primetime address, May 15, 2006
The President claims the remedy for illegal immigration is to legalize it. That's like saying that the remedy to rape is consent.
But Mr. Bush's "temporary" worker semantic sleight of hand, intended to legalize 12-20 million illegals mostly from Latin America, is only half of the pincer attack on American workers now shaping up in the Senate.
The full story: employers can use the Senate's guest worker program to import millions of unskilled indentured cryptoslaves from Southeast and South Asia- while simultaneously encouraging Latin Americans to continue to immigrate illegally.
America has had intermittent experience over the years with "temporary worker programs," much of it sordid. Liberal saint Edward R. Murrow's shocking 1960 documentary Harvest of Shame led Congress finally to eliminate the emergency WWII Bracero system in 1964.
Another notorious guest worker program has played a starring role in the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay scandal, as I pointed out in my recent VDARE.COM blog item about the indentured servitude system in the semi-autonomous American Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: George W. Bush, "Temporary Workers," and Jack Abramoff.
Unlike garments sewn in Asia, those pieced together in this US possession in the Pacific could display the "Made in USA"label and avoid paying import duties. But Congress also gave the Saipan government the privilege of setting its own immigration policy. So it established a guest worker program. Tens of thousands of women were imported to toil in sweatshops within barbed wire enclosures. Some who got pregnant were forced to have abortions by their employers. Others were assigned to bordellos.
Jack Abramoff was paid $9 million to persuade former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay not to let the House to follow the Senate's lead in cracking down on these abuses.
DeLay saw the Northern Marianas as a pathbreaking role model for American immigration policy. Lou Dubose and Jan Reid reported in their 2004 book The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress:
"When [DeLay] returned from the trip and a reporter pressed him about sweatshops in the Marianas, he said, 'I saw some of those factories. They were air-conditioned. I didn't see anyone sweating.' Then he laughed. Inspired by the labor model he saw on Saipan, he threw out a daring and philosophical idea: the United States should establish an identical 'guest worker' program 'where particular companies can bring Mexican workers in.' The Mexicans would be paid 'at whatever wage the market will bear.'"
Leaving aside all the other objections to a "temporary" worker program, such as that neither the workers nor the program is likely to be temporary, let's just consider DeLay's assumption that all the guest workers would be Mexican.
As evidence, consider an often-overlooked point about the Northern Mariana Islands scandal: none of the guest workers was from Mexico. Sweatshop owners preferred Asians to Latinos.
There is also a growing trend toward hiring Asians in the existing H-2A guest farmworker program. This suggests that the outcome of the Senate's guest worker program will not be, as is so often claimed, to legitimize Mexican labor, but to augment Hispanic illegal immigration, which will continue, with legal indentured servants from Asia.
The interest groups who are pushing the Senate's "temporary" worker plan are not so naive, however.
For example, many Asian countries could be even more profitable exporters of low wage labor. Indonesia, for example, has 245 million people, Pakistan 166 million, and Bangladesh 147 million (most of these 558 million are Muslims). The population of the Philippines is 89 million, Vietnam 84 million, and Thailand 65 million, not to mention the 2.4 billion in China and India. (Overall, the population of Asia is more than 3.8 billion.) Per capita income in those countries range from $2,100 in Bangladesh and $2,400 in Pakistan to $6,300 in rapidly growing China and $8,300 in Thailand.
And, are Asians harder workers than Latin Americans? It's hard to say for sure—Asia is an awfully big place. But no doubt more than a few employers think so.
From the point of view of unscrupulous American companies, the problem with using unskilled Asian labor has been that it's much harder to sneak illegally into this country from across an ocean than from across the Sonora Desert.
It's not just the Pacific Ocean that's a barrier. If there hasn't yet been much legal immigration into America from a particular country, it's harder to get an illegal immigration conveyor belt underway. For example, although there are a quarter of a billion Indonesians, few have so far found their way into America legally, which makes it hard for anybody to illegally immigrate from there to here because they have so few Indonesian relatives in America to help them out. (As The Godfather demonstrated, when you are engaging in illegality, it's nice to have family on your side).
But once a guest worker program brings in a critical mass of legal Indonesians, illegal immigration from the archipelago will become more practical.
So a "temporary" worker program looks like the perfect solution to unethical businesses. Rather than try to swim ashore from tramp freighters, Asian workers would get to fly conveniently into LAX. But if any of them cause trouble for the boss, he can throw the ingrate out of the country to encourage the others.
Meanwhile, Mexicans and Central Americans can continue to sneak into America, easily evading the token 370 miles of border fence approved by the Senate last week. (It would leave 80 percent of the frontier unfenced.)
Both legal and illegal unskilled immigrants would continue in demand. The more restrictions Congress piles on guest workers to prevent Northern Marianas-style abuses - such as last week's successful amendment to the Senate bill requiring union wages be paid on private guest worker jobs - the more expensive guest workers become, so the more profitable will remain illegals.
A reader sent me this revealing article about the H-2A system by Lornet Turnbull in the Seattle Times (2/20/05):
"The men, mostly poor farmers from rural Thailand, were the first foreign workers brought to Washington to pick fruit under a decades-old federal guest-worker program meant to fill labor shortages in agriculture.
"The Thais' sudden appearance in the orchards of Eastern Washington could signal the start of a shift in the state's agricultural work force…
"'I think foreign guest workers are the answer for now, until the next big thing comes around — like mechanization,' said John Verbrugge, orchard manager at Valley Fruit in Wapato.
Funny, but mechanization of farm work used to be the current big thing … until cheap immigrant labor came along.
"[Growers] get workers whose immigration status and loyalty are not in question. And when the harvest is as big as it was last year, they know these workers — their English limited and their movements largely controlled — will show up to work…"
The supply of Asians is enormous and is desperate to get here:
"The Thai workers who came to Washington were men in their 20s and 30s, on H-2A visas that are often issued for up to three years. Most are farmers from a country where agriculture employs half the population. Some told state government officials they paid amounts up to $8,000 to a recruitment company in Bangkok to get the jobs in the U.S."
And here's the bottom line: Thai
cryptoslaves, excuse me, "temporary workers"
have a "lower runaway rate."
"Orian [the procurer] says he isn't whipsawing one group against another and in the past has brought workers from Mexico and Central America as well as Asia.
He said the Thais have a lower runaway rate than the others and are more productive." [Emphasis mine]
A lower runaway rate. Have we come to this?
If you can get yourself into the U.S. illegally, as Mexicans can quite easily, you may well be better off as an illegal alien than as a guest worker:
"'You have more freedom as an illegal because you can move from one job to another. If you're a guest worker, your ability to change is very limited.'"
So the purpose of the new guest worker program backed by the Senate is not to provide a legal alternative for Mexicans who would otherwise sneak in.
No, the purpose is to allow American employers to tap the enormous labor supply of impoverished Southeast Asian and Southern Asians—while continuing to encourage Latin Americans to illegally immigrate!
Further, in the long run, a guest worker program encourages illegal immigration from new countries, such as Indonesia. Which means that even if a future Congress, in a fit of sanity, were to eliminate guest worker programs, the Cheap Labor Lobby would still benefit from flows of illegal immigrants from new countries.
American workers will be caught in a pincer. But pincers can be broken – at a price. What's at stake here is the entire tacit understanding between labor and capital that has made the American free enterprise system work.