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Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is how a guest worker program could bolster the will of government officials to enforce our immigration laws. The big problem with our immigration laws over the past several decades is that we have lacked the political will to enforce them. And as this lack of will has caused failure in the past, it is likely to continue to cause failure in the future.
SO HOW WILL A GUEST WORKER program help? First, it will reduce sympathy for illegal immigrants. Many people find it unpalatable to arrest and deport poor, hard working people. But with a process for working people to come to, and work in, the United States legally, even many people who would now turn a blind eye to illegal immigration would consider that those who come and stay here illegally have no excuse for their actions and should be deported. San Francisco and other liberal cities will, no doubt, continue to offer “sanctuary” but it is likely that a result of a guest worker program will be greater cooperation between the Border Patrol and local law enforcement agencies.
But most important will be the increased will to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants. Right now, many industries dependent on illegal labor, particularly agricultural interests, are effective lobbyists for keeping enforcement of employer sanctions lax. And a big part of this effectiveness is due to the fact that many of the people charged with the enforcing know that strict enforcement of employer sanctions would cause chaos in several important industries. With their needed labor force legalized, and with a program in place to get more workers, if the domestic labor market should run dry, these industries would no longer have an interest in lobbying against either border enforcement or employer sanctions. And those charged with enforcing the laws, and the government officials who oversee them, should no longer have any qualms about vigorously enforcing the law. (Then, if only we can get the courts to agree that illegals who do not have a right to work here also do not have a “right” to welfare benefits, we will reduce another major draw for people to enter the country illegally.)
No guest worker program coming out of Congress will be perfect. But as conservatives, we should take to heart the teaching of Edmund Burke that we need to deal with the reality of our circumstances when formulating policy. In the world that is, mass deportations of productive, working people is neither wise nor feasible. In the world that is, a guest worker program that includes reasonable penalties for those currently working in the country illegally is something that can, when combined with stronger border security and tighter immigration enforcement, bring real benefit.
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