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PRESIDENT BUSH PROPOSES LAW ALLOWING TEMPORARY VISAS TO UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS

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February 2004
PRESIDENT BUSH PROPOSES LAW ALLOWING TEMPORARY VISAS TO UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS

In a televised address on January 7th, 2004, President Bush set forth his proposal to Congress to institute a program for those who are in the US illegally, so that they may work for a period of three years in a temporary worker status. Specifically, Bush stated:

"This program will offer legal status as temporary workers to the millions of undocumented men and women now employed in the United States and to those in foreign countries who seek to participate in the program and have been offered employment here. This new system should be clear and efficient so employers are able to find workers quickly and simply.

All who participate in the temporary worker program must have a job or, if not living in the United States, a job offer. The legal status granted by this program will last three years and will be renewable, but it will have an end. Participants who do not remain employed, who do not follow the rules of the program or who break a law will not be eligible for continued participation and will be required to return to their home.

Q: Will immigrants who participate in this program be eligible for citizenship?

The President's proposal would not put temporary workers on the path to a green card, which permits holders to apply for citizenship after 5 years.

Q: How will you determine that a job cannot be filled by an American?

Employers would have to make every reasonable effort to find an American to fill a job before extending job offers to foreign workers.

Q: If unemployment rises, will this program be suspended?

One of the goals of the temporary worker program is to fill jobs in the US that are not being filled by American workers. Employers would have to make every reasonable effort to first fill any job with an American before offering one to a foreign worker, including during an economic downturn.

Q: Will the family members of aliens participating in the temporary worker program be able to live in the US with the principal worker?

Yes. The concept of family unity is consistent with other temporary visa categories already in existence. The principal worker is required to prove that he or she can support family members during their stay in the US. Family members will not be authorized to work unless they join the program themselves.

Q: If this program does not allow the worker to remain permanently in the United States, what incentive would an undocumented worker have to come forward?

The worker will be able to live and work legally and openly, which brings improved working conditions, the ability to travel to the home country, and the opportunity to negotiate salary and benefits, receive training, and to move to another employer participating in the program. When immigrants are witness to or victimized by crime, they won't be afraid to call the police, or seek recourse in the legal system.

Q: Will the federal government be able to implement such a large-scale immigration program and also enforce the immigration laws?

While the details of the program will be worked out during discussions with Congress, we envision that the temporary worker program will simplify employers' hiring of foreign workers and contain sufficient protections to protect the American workforce. We anticipate that the program would include: a website that would list available jobs and authorized workers; a simple process for employers to establish that they have been unable to find American workers; the requirement that the employer report when foreign workers enter and leave their employ; and strong audit and penalty provisions to ensure that both employers and workers are following the rules.


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