Guest Worker Programs are No Fix for Our Broken Immigration System: Evidence from the Northern Mariana Islands
Albany Law School
October 18, 2010
New Mexico Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 1, 2011
Albany Law School Research Paper No. 37
The creation of a large-scale unskilled guest worker program has been a prominent element of comprehensive immigration reform proposals in recent years. This year it was featured as one of the “four pillars” of a reform framework endorsed by the Obama Administration. The principal ills that are cited as justifying immigration reform include the deterioration of border security, the violence associated with human smuggling, and the widespread mistreatment of unauthorized immigrants. Many believe that a large-scale guest worker program will help to resolve these problems by providing a lawful channel to divert the flow of unauthorized workers. This article argues that such faith defies the evidence. Namely, a guest worker program will not quell the flow of unauthorized workers or secure the border, and will inevitably be accompanied by exploitation and abuse of guest workers, among other problems, even if it includes greater worker protections than existing programs.
This article reaches these conclusions by examining past and present federal unskilled guest worker programs, as well as the guest worker program run by the Northern Mariana Islands, a Commonwealth of the United States. The Northern Marianas’ guest worker program had in place many of the worker safeguards proposed by recent reform bills, and yet it, like all federal programs to date, contributed to widespread worker exploitation, depressed wages, predatory employment practices, a tremendous backlog of labor cases, and a high incidence of human trafficking. The Northern Marianas example illustrates that even a “worker friendly” guest worker program will not solve the ills associated with unauthorized immigration, but, rather, will serve to perpetuate them with the aid of state apparatus.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 62
Keywords: Guest Worker Program, ImmigrationAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 14, 2010 ; Last revised: November 28, 2011
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