Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Into the sunshine

US Senator Edward Kennedy has successfully negotiated a deal with President Bush on immigration reforms that the BBC reports ‘could give legal status to many of the 12m illegal immigrants in the US’.

After first paying visa fees and a $5,000 (£2,530) fine - and returning to their home country - illegal immigrants in the US would be eligible for the planned "Z visa".

Holders of this proposed visa would have to wait between eight and 13 years for a decision on their permanent residency application.

Another key component of the deal was the establishment of a "points system" that would emphasise new immigrants' education, language and job skills over family connections in awarding green cards.

After decades of hiding from the INS and contributing to the US economy, making life comfortable cleaning up after some rich Anglo, what could be fairer than paying $5000 for the privilege of returning home, probably sacrificing your job, waiting the BBC doesn’t say how long to receive the coveted ‘Z visa’, and then waiting another 13 years to find out whether the beneficent US government deems you worthy to stay?

The bill also establishes a two-year temporary guest worker visa.

Holders of this visa would be allowed to renew their papers twice, but would have to return home for a year between each stint, and would have virtually no chance of gaining permanent residency or citizenship under this program.

Another terrific deal. Do the work no US citizen will do for pay nobody could survive on and we’ll let you stay for six years, no more. But first things first.

But these measures would not come into force until the number of border guards had been doubled, the fence with Mexico reinforced and high-tech enforcement measures put in place.

"The agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders and bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America," Mr Kennedy said as he announced the deal.

And don’t forget your sunscreen.

1 comment:

  1. "Illegal" immigration into the US is a long-established phenomenon and is a thoroughly integrated feature of the economy there. If the attempts to stem it are successful, there will be consequences.

    First, while undocumented immigrants don't "take jobs" (all migrants are both a mouth to feed and a pair of hands to work, so they add one person to both the supply & demand side of the labour market), their undocumented status makes them cheaper to hire. Their bosses thus benefit from their lower wages and the lower wages their documented colleagues are forced to take. Cutting off the flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico will thus create a labour shortage in industries which rely heavily on them.

    In fact, there is already a shortage of fruit and vegetable pickers developing, I have been informed, because farm workers are leaving for higher-paid jobs elsewhere in the economy. Rather than raise wages, agribusiness bosses are leaving vegetables to rot unharvested. I would be interested to see a decent article giving details.

    Anyway, this might illuminate the thinking behind the 13-year "path to citizenship" being discussed. Having legal, but tenuous, second class status would keep any pay rises for previously "illegal" immigrants down to a minimum; and having it last for a decade or more would ensure that there is a large supply of workers in that category.

    Of course, the answer to this situation is militant unionism. The Victorian Branch of the CFMEU says, "If we come across immigrant workers being grossly underpaid, we don't ask them whether their residency papers are in order - we ask them to join the Union." By fighting the bosses hard, and with solidarity from the rest of the workforce, any law can be turned into feed for the recycling bin.