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Editorial: Guest-worker plan a step toward solving border woes

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
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Business needs cheap labor. Workers need to earn a living. Laws need to be upheld.

Mix these needs with notions of patriotism and xenophobia, and you have the mess that is U.S. immigration policy.

Illegal immigration is an impending hot-button issue in many states' primary races - none more so than Arizona, which is on the front line of increasingly heated argument on how best to stanch the torrential influx of undocumented workers. Gov. Janet Napolitano declared a state of emergency along the Mexican border in August to call federal attention to the chaos wrought by illegal immigration and the concomitant trafficking hazards, both in people and drugs -and potentially terrorism.

President Bush visited Tucson on Monday to laud his own efforts in tightening border security and to again call for congressional action on his guest-worker proposal.

Bush is to be commended for his insistence in keeping immigration reform on the table. He has the right idea in funding increased security and calling for the closure of dubious provisions and loopholes in federal law.

However, law enforcement only deals with the surface symptoms of illegal immigration, problems that will persist as long as legislation fails to provide an effective answer for the forces that impel undocumented workers to America in the first place.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and John Kyl have introduced competing guest-worker proposals in Congress that, like Bush's program, are bogged down in a swamp of unresolved details and disparate civil philosophies. The need for a pragmatic solution is pitched against the thinking that a guest-worker program would effectively award amnesty to lawbreaking immigrants.

The ideological debate is not limited to whether noncitizens should be allowed to work and live legally in the United States. Undocumented employment will continue to be a problem as long as Mexico's dysfunctional economy drives Mexicans to seek work in America through any means available.

Consequently, the debate has centered on how an optimal guest-worker program should cope with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. The question has become how, not if.

Bush's avowed opposition to amnesty is admirable in its determination to keep the guest-worker process aboveboard, but may prove unworkable. The essential trade-off is that guaranteeing amnesty may ease the transition into a guest-worker economy at a cost of devaluing U.S. laws and citizenship.

Though the ethical and financial ramifications of implementing any guest-worker program -including questions such as who's going to pay for the program and what it means to be an American citizen - remain cloudy, it is clear that the time has come for these proposals to receive substantive discussion and action.

Opinions Board

Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Damion LeeNatali, Mike Morefield, Katie Paulson, and Tim Runestad.

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