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Wide of the mark
Sweeping new U.S. immigration laws are coming?


Afshin Pishevar
January 9, 2006

MAJOR immigration changes are brewing in the U.S. Congress.  Now is the time to let our voices be heard by our elected representatives.  If we don’t speak up now, no amount of “crying over spilled milk” will help after the fact.

As we may recall, after winning his second term, President George W. Bush promised that he would spend part of his “political capital” on “immigration reform.”  Recently, a significant immigration scheme was passed in The U.S. House of Representatives, but  that bill rejected  and cut out the “guest worker/amnesty” provisions.  Those provisions would have legalized millions of undocumented immigrants who are in the U.S. at this time. 

The battle is nowhere near over. 

A similar bill is expected to go before the U.S. Senate next month.  The Senate may very well pass the bill with the Guest Worker provisions intact.  After that the bills will likely go “reconciliation”  as the various joint House/Senate committees will try to hash out a compromise bill that can pass in both the House and the Senate and become the law of the land once signed by the President.

The main philosophical debate in play here is the tension between the need for “security” and the economic need for foreign workers.  The fact of the matter is that a guest worker/amnesty program is an absolute necessity. There are certain essential jobs that Americans have overwhelmingly "CHOSEN" not to do or cannot do. These workers supply a much needed force which the economy would not be able to sustain itself without.

The guest worker/amnesty Program should be supported by the Iranian-American community.  This would legalizes and control a system that is currently permitted to carry on anyway - with the government basically turning a blind eye to it and simply deporting people once they are somehow ensnared in the system inadvertently.  Legalizing what is already happening would infuse control into the system and drive out the criminal element in large part. It would also bring more integrity and order to the currently ineffective and arbitrary system.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed this major immigration reform bill.  The intent is clearly to control illegal immigration and secure the nation’s borders.  The bill funds additional border fences.  The bill also stops the "catch and release" policy.  Currently, illegal aliens caught at the border are released, many times inside the United States.  This bill would also require businesses to substantiate that their workers are authorized to work. Astonishingly, the House rejected President Bush’s call for the guest worker program.  This would have legalized approximately 15 million illegal aliens presently in the United States.

The House bill also seeks improvements in border security. Countless Americans are more and more concerned about the U.S./Mexican border.   The border is viewed as exposed and susceptible to terrorists, smugglers and other criminals. The House bill would build approximately 700 miles of fence and create tougher criminal penalties for smugglers.  There would also be jail for people who illegally enter. Local agencies would be given further incentives to detain illegal aliens and turning them over to the Feds.

If this bill is adopted by the Senate, it would be the most sweeping immigration reform measure in recent history.  As it stands now, the fait of the bill is unclear. The Senate bill would create a guest worker program. The House majority rejects this idea. Those who oppose the guest worker program argue that a guest worker program encourages illegal immigration and rewards illegal aliens for breaking the law.

The House immigration reform bill is being opposed by a wide array of special interest groups. These groups include the Latino advocacy groups, business lobbies, labor Unions and immigration lawyers among others. However, this broad coalition may not be strong enough to defeat an immigration reform bill that is backed by a large, rather vocal and motivated population. 

These are mainly Republicans who are conservative and religiously right-wing Americans.   They mainly voice frustration over a “flood of illegal aliens” who are rapidly changing the complexion of their communities.  They latch on to every myth and stereotype in the book.  They declare that illegal aliens are lowering wages for blue collar workers and putting enormous pressure on local and state governments to educate and provide healthcare and other services for illegal aliens.

They are wide of the mark.  The AP just reported on January 4, 2006 that the United States faces a severe worker shortage in the very near future.  The report cites to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who last Wednesday, actually advocated changes in immigration law to allow in more foreign workers.  U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue, at a news conference outlining business prospects in 2006, said the U.S. is not prepared to deal with the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers

So is the immigration reform bill that passed the House of Representatives good for America? And must reform include a guest worker program where illegal aliens would be given legal status?  ABSOLUTELY.

The Republicans seem to be thinking self-interestedly and not about the Nation. Some advocates have argued that Republicans generally oppose allowing more legal immigration because immigrants are statistically more likely to become Democrats.  The business community sees the impending worker shortage and logically wants a guest worker program.  Another major group that is working hard to defeat the House bill is labor unions. It is extraordinary to witness big business working closely with labor unions to defeat legislation.  It is usually the mark of a superior position when you witness a dissimilar coalition unify to support it.

In conclusion, the United States is in desperate need of immigrant workers to sustain a healthy economy.  The conservative Right is desperate to fight immigration, as usual, under the pretext of homeland security.  The gauntlet has been thrown down and a battle royal between two desperate sides is looming on the Hill. 

Ironically President Bush may be the greatest ally of the guest worker program.  The House bill must be defeated and replaced with one containing the guest worker provision.   Iranian-Americans must speak up now. If the American pubic makes it clear that this is a significant priority, our elected officials will listen.  If the current House Bill becomes Law, then none of our complaining and criticizing will add up to a hill of beans.

Afshin P. Pishevar, Esq. Law Offices of A.P. Pishevar & Associates, Rockville, Maryland. See

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