Designing Temporary Worker Programs

26 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2013

See all articles by Hiroshi Motomura

Hiroshi Motomura

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law

Date Written: February 6, 2013


Some of the most vexing and persistent questions in U.S. immigration policy involve whether and how to design programs to admit temporary workers. These questions often prompt disagreement, even among those who otherwise agree on many aspects of immigration law and policy. To address these questions, this Article starts with a brief overview of temporary worker admissions in U.S. immigration law today, and then summarizes the main points typically made by supporters and skeptics. It next identifies key questions for those who would design temporary worker programs. The main part of the Article then explains how analysis of temporary worker programs generally reflects some combination of four broad perspectives. One perspective evaluates temporary worker programs as a force in the U.S. economy that benefits many citizens and permanent residents but disadvantages others. A second perspective views admission of temporary workers not only in comparison to its traditional foil — admission of permanent residents — but also to immigration outside the law. A third perspective analyzes temporary worker admissions not only as a vital facet of immigration law, but also as essential to international economic development. A fourth perspective assesses temporary admissions in the context not just of immigration law, but also of citizenship, especially by looking at the integration of future generations. Comparing and evaluating these four perspectives can shed light on current debates by broadening and deepening analysis of temporary worker programs. Overall, the broad assessment provided by a balanced combination of these perspectives generally suggests cautious support for temporary worker programs, but only if they are carefully designed and coordinated with initiatives outside of immigration law.

Keywords: immigration law, immigration policy, immigration enforcement, temporary workers, citizenship, immigration legalization, national borders, justice in immigration, nation-state, international economic development

Suggested Citation

Motomura, Hiroshi, Designing Temporary Worker Programs (February 6, 2013). 80 University of Chicago Law Review 263-88 (2013), UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 13-04, Available at SSRN:

Hiroshi Motomura (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law ( email )

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