A large-scale "guest worker" program may finally be on the horizon in the United States again after a contentious but successful negotiation by labor, business and political leaders. Despite highly passionate views on immigration from all sides, the parties were able to come together to produce a plan with support from all three interest groups. When Congress returns from spring break, a bipartisan group of legislators will present the plan to begin the process of becoming law.
The deal allows undocumented immigrants to work legally in the United States and receive protections that are afforded documented workers. It also provides businesses with the ability to hire up to hundreds of thousands of guest workers during times of low-unemployment while also giving unions protections on wages.
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, took a closer look at the broad strokes of the plan which were released over the weekend. The details of the proposal are still confidential. Nowrasteh acknowledges that there are improvements in this proposal over previous versions.
The parties were able to deal with several contentious issues including wages for guest workers. Unions were worried that employers would continue to pay below market wages. Under the deal, employers would agree to pay the higher of the company wage or average prevailing wage for the job in the location where it's performed. Another key sticking point was the construction sector, where undocumented workers go during boom times. Guest workers will be allowed for most construction jobs, but in restricted numbers and not for skilled positions like crane operators. Importantly, workers won’t be forced to stay with the same company; they can switch to other jobs freely.
This could be good news for small businesses. If the deal becomes law, then it will allow for the legal hiring of the workers that many small businesses employ anyway. It will also create a new pool of consumers that can spend and invest openly without the constant fear of deportation.
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