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Posted at 2:06 PM ET, 12/23/2010

Now, what about immigration reform?

By Jennifer Rubin

Neither Republicans nor Democrats are saying much about the defeat of the DREAM Act. It seems most Democrats would rather not bring up one of the Obama "losses" during the lame-duck session of Congress; Republicans are too busy grousing that START opposition melted like butter. The reactions of both sides suggest that keeping the immigration issue alive rather than solving the problem is uppermost in the minds of politicians.

And sure enough, Obama, who has had two years to make a concerted push for comprehensive immigration reform, is back to issuing platitudes. The White House released a statement earlier this week in which Obama "further reiterated his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, pointing out that we can no longer perpetuate a broken immigration system that is not working for our country or our economy."

A lot of time has been spent arguing over border security, legalization and employer sanctions. But perhaps it is time to start from the other direction: a robust guest worker program. What? Let more people in! Yes, neither the left, which wants to hold out for more, nor the right, which has become as anti-immigration (or "pro-restrictionist," if you prefer) as organized labor, is enamored of a guest worker program. (That is odd, come to think of it, since conservatives are supposed to favor free markets and oppose union attempts to restrict the pool of available labor.)

But if we look at past efforts to establish legal guest worker programs, we find out that they help to stem the tide of illegal immigration and make the task of border security much easier.

Daniel Griswold of CATO wrote in the spring:

In the 1950s, Congress dramatically expanded the number of temporary-worker visas through the Bracero Program. The result was a 95 percent drop in arrests at the border. If Mexican and Central American workers know they can enter the country legally to fill jobs, they will be far less likely to enter illegally.

A workable temporary-visa program would allow border agents to concentrate their efforts on intercepting real criminals and terrorists at the border. It would also reduce the temptation to hire illegal workers, in turn reducing the need to raid workplaces and impose national ID cards, employment verification systems, and other burdens on American citizens. . . .

A 2009 Cato Institute study predicted that a sufficient temporary-worker program would boost the real income of U.S. households by $180 billion a year.

Conservatives would be wise to avoid inflammatory and unsupported arguments that immigrant workers, whether legal or not, abscond with Americans' jobs. Writing in the Albany Government Law Review, Griswold elaborated:

By facilitating the growth of such sectors as retail, construction, landscaping, restaurants, and hotels, low-skilled immigrants have enables those sectors to expand, attract investment and create middle-class jobs in management, bookkeeping, marketing and other areas that employ native-born Americans.

The experience we have with guest worker programs comes from the 1950's when the Bracero program permitted Mexican workers to enter, generally for farm work. Griswold explains, "Back then, as we could expect now, foreign-born workers rationally chose the legal path to entry when it was available. When the Bracero program was abolished in 1964, illegal immigration began an inexorable rise that continues to this day." And the central flaw in the Bracero program -- that it tied workers to a single employer, thus setting up opportunities for abuse -- need not be repeated.

At the other end of the labor market, we need to seriously re-examine the number of H-1B visas to provide employers with high-skilled workers for jobs that native-born Americans are not able to fill.

While the White House is in a kumbaya moment, enjoying the applause for its productivity, perhaps it could make progress on immigration reform. Or would each side prefer to simply gin up its base on this one?

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 23, 2010; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Immigration  
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"By facilitating the growth of such sectors as retail, construction, landscaping, restaurants, and hotels, low-skilled immigrants have enables those sectors to expand, attract investment and create middle-class jobs in management, bookkeeping, marketing and other areas that employ native-born Americans"

If you believe that the exploitation of Illegals is the way to grow the economy,this is a good point. As for myself,I'm waiting for a Conservative commentator to recommend that the first order of business is to convict those business owners who illegally hired the illegal labor in order to illegally grow their businesses.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 23, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The only people who want to see the Dream Act pass is those who want to see the population of illegals double (again).

Posted by: lindalovejones | December 23, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I think you're making too much of a blanket statement to say the Right is "pro-restrictionist." There are plenty of us (the majority, I'd say) who favor immigration, we just want it done legally. Being in favor of the rule of law does not make one anti-immigration.

Regarding the rest of the article, I'd be all in favor of a well-designed guest-worker program, as long as it was coupled with stringent enforcement against employers exploiting illegals.

Posted by: irishspy | December 23, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Obama has failed so miserably when it comes to immigration reform that there is now a window of opportunity for the GOP to ingratiate themselves with the Latinos.

How? By a "preemptive" strike, coming up with a conservative, concrete comprehensive immigration reform proposal to be passed in 2011, including
1)improved enforcement at the border, 2)a biometric tamper-proof social security card, 3)swift, conditional legalization of the otherwise law-abiding illegal/undocumented immigrants but no automatic citizenship, and 4)a guest worker program for high- and low-skilled workers.
If the GOP seized the initiative on comprehensive immigration reform, Obama would be left with egg on his face and the Republicans would have a much better chance in 2012.

Posted by: mehuwss | December 23, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I find myself to the right of you on this Jennifer. Wow, this is awkward!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 23, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

By facilitating the growth of such sectors as retail, construction, landscaping, restaurants, and hotels, low-skilled immigrants have enables those sectors to expand, attract investment and create middle-class jobs in management, bookkeeping, marketing and other areas that employ native-born Americans.
Nonsense. If this were true, California, with a 10 percent population that is low-skilled and illegal, would not have a 13 percent unemployment rate.

Posted by: MaryJessel | December 23, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Latino citizens should also be against illegal immigration. They often suffer economically when competing with them for jobs. The borders must be sufficiently sealed before we take another step.

The subject of race should also be removed from this discussion. Everyone should pretend that the illegals are mostly blue eyed and blond haired Canadians who will eventually become loyal Republican voters.

Posted by: DavidThomson | December 23, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Why guest worker program?

So corporations get a steady pool of cheap and enslaved labor?

Here's why any CIR is a non-starter: The left and the right have no incentive or interest in enforcing any immigration laws. Either current laws, or any laws enacted in the future. Any new laws will be ignored and not enforced, just like the current ones are ignored and not enforced.

So we will always have the immigration issue.

There is just no incentive among the leftists and the right corporatists to enforce any immigration laws. Leftists want open borders, corporatists want serial cheap labor. The driving forces of all pro-illegals is not going to be satisfied just by passing amnesty.

Posted by: sam129 | December 23, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm really not sure I follow the logic here. The U.S. does not have ENOUGH low skilled labor?! We need to import more of that type of labor, and consequently drive the market value of that labor even LOWER?

It seems to me that the precisely the opposite is true. Everyone bemoans the increasing disparity between the poor and well off, but clearly much of the reason for that is that we already have too many low skill workers chasing too few jobs.

Your proposal will make this situation far worse. It is quite true that a genuinely free market creates net wealth, but if you attempt to empty the entire third world into the first world, you will see inequity on a whole new level even though market theory predicts the total 'pie' will become bigger.

Of course, this does not even address the incompatibility of this scheme with the numerous perverse incentives created by the modern welfare state.

Posted by: TYoke | December 23, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I wish a requirement to offer an opinion was some knowledge of the subject being discussed. This author cites one author was has been saying the same thing for year after year. If this author was intellectually honest, they would have read people who have arrived at different conclusions and ironically have been credentials. For example, she should real Professor Grogger of the University of Chicago. However, asking op ed writers to know something about what they write is something that is not required. Sad.

Posted by: jeffreed | December 23, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse


I am convinced most of those complaining are paid - paid to create the impression that sentiments exist when they simply don't



Posted by: RainForestRising | December 23, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse


I am convinced most of those complaining are paid - paid to create the impression that sentiments exist when they simply don't
Posted by: RainForestRising

Who's paying,I need the cash

Posted by: rcaruth | December 23, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

I am very liberal but agree with Rubin.

The problem with immigration reform is that it is opposed by an unholy alliance of the left and the right. Liberals see continued illegal immigration as gradually moving the electorate to the left. The Hispanic population keeps increasing with the double whammy of immigration and a very high birth rate, while the white population continues to decline at a below replacement fertility rate.

Conservative businessmen -- and they are the real Republican leaders as opposed to tea partiers -- profit from continued illegal immigration as a source of cheap and unprotesting labor.

Of course the answer to the immigration problem is a carefully regulated guest worker program, with protections for the workers themselves. But the Republicans don't like regulations, period. And the Democrats don't really care, as they can let the clock run out in their favor, pretending to support efforts at reform.

Posted by: Poster3 | December 24, 2010 1:43 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget Reagan legalized all the illegals and they said at the time "no more."

Instead, more came - thinking there would be another amnesty

There were 3 million legalized then

NOW there are 25 million, not all Mexicans - at least some have to be in Muslim sleeper cells, waiting to be legalized

Obama wants to give them all health insurance too, just another incentive to come here and soak as much as thy from the taxpayers

What is next? If we legalize this crew, 70 million more will come, seeking eventual legalization.

It's all about where the incentives are - and right now Harry and the democrats are holding out the INCENTIVES saying come here

OR we can STOP it now

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 24, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse

Since the Republicans won the election, more has been done in Washington than in all the years of Pelosi

The key is to give Republicans power and take influence from Obama

The Republicans' winning changed the dynamic

All these moron democrats want to give credit to Obama who could have done all this at any time over the past two years, but Obama preferred to drag down the economy with his health care plan and his other wacko liberal ideas

Case closed.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 24, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Most estimates are that about 40 % of illegal alieans are people who came here on some sort of temporary visa or other legal way and simply did not go back to there home country ( usually Mexico) when the legal way ran out .Now we are suppose to import millions more but believe THESE people will just passively return to Mexico or where ever when the time for them to return comes up? As for "burdens" like e-verify enforcement those are working keeping the illegal populations down so we now should stop them? We have a national unemployment rate of nearly 10 % The last thing we need are millions more compeating for jobs . This article is just a bunch of long ago discretited excuses to flood the country with more illegals.

Posted by: tedsherry | December 24, 2010 2:39 AM | Report abuse

Shame on the democrats that voted against our American kids and the unemployed.

If the DREAM Act had been approved there will be 2 million less American kids going to college over the next several years because they wanted to give those slots to illegal aliens.

Why do democrats hate American kids so much?

Also DREAM would have resulted in 2 to 4 MILLION illegal aliens getting 10-year work permits immediately to compete against 22 million unemployed Americans.

Democrats have not only put illegal aliens ahead of U.S. citizens but now they are actually punishing citizens so they can reward illegal alien criminals.

Posted by: charing60 | December 24, 2010 6:22 AM | Report abuse

Rubin is clueless about the history, and Cato's Dan Griswold is a useless shill. Here's the key fact: THERE'S NOTHING MORE PERMANENT THAN A "TEMPORARY WORKER." True worldwide.

Consider the Turks in Germany, for example. As Mark Steyn has written, "Almost every claim made for the benefits of mass immigration is false. Europeans were told that they needed immigrants to help prop up their otherwise unaffordable social entitlements: In reality, Turks in Germany have three times the rate of welfare dependency as ethnic Germans, and their average retirement age is 50. Two-thirds of French imams are on the dole."

Posted by: Paul9 | December 24, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin dumps on Sarah Palin, scornfully mocks that southerner Haley Barbour, calls the repeal of DADT a trivial issue, and now wants to encourage even more illegal aliens to pour across the border.

What kind of "conservative" blogger is she, anyway?

Oh, yes, I know. A Washington Post-style conservative.

Posted by: Horace2 | December 25, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

An interesting piece, though it's missing something. Obama has not wasted two years failing to push immigration reform. The failure of the previous attempt demonstrates that enhanced enforcement of immigration and labor laws was a necessary prerequisite to any new push. If only Nixon could go to China, only Obama could send them back to Guadalajara.

Merry Christmas, Jennifer. RT has been a good addition to the Post. Perhaps you and Greg S. could do a point/counterpoint chat sometime.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 25, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

For those of you who see the future of this country as latino haven't begun to see what the American people do when they are sick and tired of being used as Mexico's butt wipe.

Posted by: vickie105 | December 25, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

No more H-1B visas. If Congress can spend to educate illegals, then why, pray tell, can't they spend money to retrain and educate the unemployed to fill these jobs.

Some employer incentives to hire American citizens might help wise up employers who are cheating on the system to get the cheapest labor possible.

Also, I don't appreciate the threatening tone of your article. What is the matter with Wapo lately?

Posted by: JudiBug | December 25, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

No more H-1Bs? That's idiotic. I went to grad school in the physical sciences and so about half my cohort were foreign students. Most of whom have stayed in the U.S. and contributed. You might as well be advocating the wholesale movement of Silicon Valley to east Asia.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 25, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes academics try to prove absurd results using complex studies. In such cases, common sense should be applied by the unanointed the academics are trying to fool.

Common sense tells us that if the supply of labor increases by a large amount, this will put downward pressure on wages and lower employment levels. We have seen this in the real world already.

Only more wage depression and mass unemployment is what amnesty would bring.

Posted by: Mallarde1 | December 25, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

FairlingtonBlade It's idiotic to import labor when we have so many unemployed. Typical nonsensical response though by a person who doesn't care about anyone else. If they keep it up, maybe they will replace you.

Posted by: JudiBug | December 25, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

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