Why do we need foreign workers?
The American economy depends on labor, and every laborer at the bottom of the wage scale supports three higher jobs in our economy. Many industries depend upon jobs that Americans don’t want to do. As the economy continues to grow, the need for laborers grows with it, and thus the demand for workers.
Why can’t we close the borders first, and worry about guest workers later?
Quite simply, it won’t work. The one thing that can be counted on no matter what government does is the law of supply and demand. So long as there is a demand for workers, and people elsewhere willing to do these jobs for better money than they can make back home, they will supply the demand. Even if we build a wall, the supply will come over, under, or around it. Absolute border control is vital, yet it requires a solution to our badly broken guest worker program, and most Americans know it. In a recent poll, 78% of Americans said border control is not possible without a better system for handling guest workers. We need both.
Why don’t these people come into the U.S. legally?
Nearly all would certainly rather be legal. The fact is that our system forces most of these workers into an underground, secret, cash world for two reasons. First, the bureaucratic federal system simply cannot process the numbers quickly and efficiently enough to supply the labor when it is needed. Second, Congress places artificial limits on the numbers allowed in each category – limits that have nothing to do with actual demand. So most of them have to be here illegally or not at all. And the illegal underground generally means lower wages, lack of benefits, lack of health insurance, and vulnerability to crime. Without the artificial limits and the bureaucratic system most illegals would gladly go home and come back in legally if they could do so.
Why can’t people who want to work in the U.S. apply for jobs and then wait in line?
Quite simply, there is no such line. The U.S. system is backwards in this respect, because work visas are applied for by employers, not employees. So if a worker in Mexico, for instance, wants to work in the U.S., there is literally no system for him to apply, or even a place to go to find out what jobs may be available. So he must either wait to be recruited by an employer with resources to be in that country (or a friend or relative who knows an employer), or pay a smuggler to help get him across the border then look for work. Either way, the current system provides no workable legal alternative, and actually contributes to the porous border problem.
How would the Krieble Foundation’s privatization plan work?
It’s a simple solution. Private employment agencies would be allowed to open offices in foreign countries, and authorized to issue temporary non-immigrant worker permits (work visas). The permits would have to be “smart cards” with a photograph, a fingerprint or other biometric identification data, and information encoded in a magnetic strip so that border agents, police, and employers could swipe the card and know who the holder is, where he works, where he lives, who issued the visa, when it expires, and any other required information. Employment agencies would be licensed by the government and would be required to run criminal background checks before issuing non-immigrant worker visas, much like gun shops do today. Employers would simply post jobs with employment agencies like they do today. Best of al, the program would be funded by user fees, not taxpayers.
Are private companies able to run an “out-sourced” guest worker program?
Issuing “smart cards” has been second nature to many companies for years. Privately issued cards cannot be duplicated, and one swipe of the magnetic strip can instantly identify the holder, along with a wide array of information that can be encoded. For over a century employment companies across the nation have made their living putting employers and employees together. Numerous companies would invest in the new card system, and open offices in Mexico and elsewhere almost overnight, for one simple reason – there is money to be made in doing so. No incentive is more powerful than the profit motive, so the best answer to the efficiency problem is to let the free market work.
What role would the government play? Who would run criminal background checks?
Government would have a critical role in determining the rules for the issuance of temporary non-immigrant worker visas by private companies. Government would license such companies and set up rules for running criminal background checks on applicants, and would enforce those rules, just as government enforces those rules with gun dealers. Government would determine what information should be included on the smart cards, and would regulate and control the database, although it could be housed on private computers and paid for privately. The private card issuer would run the criminal background checks, checking applicants against government databases (FBI). Ideally, the criminal background checks should consult both the American database, and that of the applicant’s home country, since the U.S. doesn’t want people who have committed violent crimes anywhere.
What about countries that won’t share their criminal databases with us?
The U.S. should not accept guest workers from countries that won’t do so. Today most countries, including Mexico, maintain criminal databases. But even in countries where the databases are corrupt, incomplete, or even non-existent this program would help solve the problem. If the American guest worker program depended on such cooperation, it would provide a powerful incentive for such nations to create or fix their criminal databases, lest they disadvantage their own citizens, and their own economies (money sent home from the U.S. is said to be the third largest source of revenue in Mexico, so there is little question about the need for cooperation on its part).
Wouldn’t profit-motivated companies have an incentive to give visas to workers and short-circuit the background checks?
Most certainly private companies would have a very strong incentive to issue the non-immigrant worker visas. It is the profit motive that encourages activity in the private sector. That’s why illegals would return home to apply. That same profit motive encourages speed, accuracy, and efficiency. It also discourages cheating, because the threat of losing one’s license to do business is a strong motive to play by the rules. Very few gun shops sell firearms illegally (without the background checks), because they are not allowed to stay in business if they do so. Requiring all smart cards to include the name of the issuing company would provide government the ability to enforce its licensing rules.
How will this address the illegal population already in the U.S.?
They’ll have the most powerful incentive to do so – the illegal labor market will dry up as soon as there are legal workers available. In addition, the two major disincentives (that keep them in the U.S. illegally) would be removed: the bureaucracy that didn’t work for them the first time, and the artificial limits on their number. The only illegals who would have no incentive to go home and re-apply are: criminals who could not pass the background checks, terrorists and drug dealers with intentions other than work, and those from far-away nations where traveling home is impossible. Some alternative process for the latter should be considered, but 85% of the illegals are thought to be from Mexico, so the vast majority would have every reason to go home and apply legally, and no good reason not to do so. Government won’t have to find and deport all these people if they do so themselves.
How do we know non-immigrant workers will go home after their visas expire?
They’ll have the same incentives illegals have to return home – no job in the U.S. if they’re illegal, and the certainty of a quick and easy turn-around if they go home and apply legally. In addition, one more powerful incentive can be offered to legal non-immigrant workers who return home when their term expires: the return of their employee contribution to Social Security. No incentive is more powerful than cash. As non-citizens, they cannot collect Social Security anyway, so why not give them back their money as a strong incentive, when they go home?
What about free government services while these workers are in the U.S.?
One of the primary benefits of bringing these people out of the shadows and getting them into a legal system is they will be taxpayers. Currently, some researchers estimate that services to illegals cost taxpayers over $45 billion each year, mostly in education, health care, and jails. Those costs are born mostly by state and local governments. But under the Krieble plan employers of non-immigrant workers would be required to withhold and pay the same taxes as they do for local workers. Thus, these legal workers would be taxpayers. Most Americans would not feel resentment about the use of schools, hospitals and social services if the recipients were paying their share of taxes, too.
What about illegals having babies in the US, so their children are citizens?
Congress should end this absurd practice. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is often misunderstood in its language: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…” Contrary to conventional wisdom, that does not mean everyone born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen. On the contrary, Congress has specifically denied that status to children born of foreigners, aliens, diplomats, foreign ministers, and others over the years and the Supreme Court has upheld Congress’ right to do so. The concept is simple and dates from the founding of the Republic. Citizenship must be both offered (by the current citizens, through their congressional representatives) and accepted (by adults who swear 100% allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the U.S.) Those with divided allegiance, or who make a conscious decision not to be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, by definition cannot be citizens. Congress should clarify that children born to people in the U.S. illegally, or to temporary guest workers, are not American citizens.
If we create a new non-immigrant worker program, aren’t we just asking for more immigrants and further weakening American culture?
Absolutely not. It must be clear that guest workers are not immigrants, and that’s why the permit should be called a “non-immigrant worker permit.” They are here for a determined length of time to work, and that term will expire. Immigrants are in a completely different line, with different rules. To become an immigrant requires living in the country more than 5 years, learning English, American history and civics, being of sound moral character and being sponsored by current citizens. Temporary non-immigrant workers could also apply for immigrant status, even citizenship, while working as guest workers (though most are not here for that purpose), but their guest status would give them no place in the immigration line. They should have to apply like everyone else and start at the end of the line. Nothing about this program could encourage immigration, because it would have no affect on immigrants.
Won’t Americans do any job as long as the wages are high enough?
Indeed not. We hear a great deal about jobs Americans won’t do, but many employers in many fields report a complete lack of applicants even when higher wages are offered. In agriculture, for instance, produce pickers are nearly impossible to hire in local communities throughout the West. Some employers have advertised such jobs at more than twice the pay local teenagers earn working in fast food restaurants, and had no applicants. This is not true in all industries, but the biggest mistake here is the typical Washington, D.C. one-size-fits-all approach. Some opponents argue that industries should mechanize their operations instead of relying on cheap labor, but perishable crops like peaches can only be picked by hand. Conversely, some guest worker proponents argue that without such a program jobs will continue to be exported to countries where labor is cheaper. That’s true in some industries like agriculture, but not in construction or in hotels. Neither argument is always right at all times, so the best solution is the American way – let the market work. The free market will always establish its limits and decide how many workers are needed for how many jobs, and at what wage. Artificial government meddling in the economy has never worked, and still doesn’t.
What makes this private-sector plan any better than the other guest worker plans being considered in Congress?
One simply difference – all the plans previously debated in Congress are based on implementation by the same government bureaucracies that have failed in the past. Some plans would allow illegals to register and pay a fine and become legal without leaving. Most Americans consider that amnesty and the public will not support it. Other plans require workers to return to their home countries and re-apply, but under the control of the already-existing bureaucracy. But it is unreasonable to expect. That system did not work for these people, or they would already be in the U.S. legally. Government is not capable of finding and deporting 10 million people, so the undocumented population has to be given a reason to want to go home and re-apply on their own. That means the certainty of getting legal documentation quickly and efficiently, and it means eliminating the artificial limit on their numbers. They have strong incentives to get legal, but only if they know it will work. Changing those incentives is the key to the Krieble plan.
Why is the Krieble Plan being called a more “conservative” approach?
All other plans being debated in Washington are based on massive increases in government spending. Some call for huge increases in federal employment (one bill called for adding 20,000 new border guards), with all the implications for salaries, benefits, and future retirement liability. Other plans call for construction of a massive border wall, priced conservatively at over $3 billion. The Krieble plan would eliminate most illegal border crossers, so border control would be easier, cheaper, and could be done with existing resources. And the non-immigrant worker program would be privately funded, costing taxpayers almost nothing. Government would have an oversight function, but would outsource the actual operation of the program, to be privately funded. Rather than costing taxpayers more, it would create new business opportunities and new jobs.