It's hard to have an intelligent debate about immigration without watching it spiral into a mindless series of personal attacks about "racism," "xenophobia," and "nativism." But no matter where one personally stands on the internally divisive issue, it's imperative that we recognize the proposed "guest worker" program frequently cited by the administration and business conservatives poses a devastating threat to virtually all domestic goals of progressives.....
Simply put, the idea of a "guest worker" program reduces a human being to a set of hands on the factory floor. "Guest workers" will live within American borders as dehumanized servants to Mammon and his bottom line. They will be used for their labor over a set period of time at which point the parties hiring them get to trade up. This represents a complete political disempowerment for a rising percentage of workers toiling in the most physically demanding jobs, thus enabling their employers to operate even further under the radar than they do now. After all, politicians don't represent "guest workers" who are citizens of another country so what's their motivation to regulate the commerce in their respective fields? A "guest worker" program is taxation without representation, which members of civilized society should view as a form of slavery.
That is the most humanistic grievance I have with a "guest worker" program, but in terms of employment policy it also represents a race to the bottom. Employers have an added incentive to bust unions and demand wage concessions if they have a "guest worker" program that will reward them with a cheap, disempowered labor force without even leaving American soil.
Take Delphi, for instance. After their bankruptcy, they are demanding that union workers take a 63% pay cut. Even if workers agree to those terms, Delphi is gonna have a hard time keeping a factory floor full of employees if they plan to pay $10 an hour. Enter a "guest worker" program and the problem goes away overnight. The good union jobs of yesterday become the "jobs Americans won't do" of tomorrow. All perfectly legal and all perfectly below-the-radar of the average middle-class American in the suburbs.
And so it will go with a guest worker program. The already shrinking number of well-paying semi-skill jobs will continue to artificially join the ranks of "jobs Americans won't do," while employers get a workforce full of non-voting "guest workers," helping them to evade labor laws, raise company profit levels and thus contributions to the Republican Party, and take away financial contributions and votes from the Democrats. Lovely.