A few days ago the New York Times had an article about a change in immigration enforcement under the Obama administration. Like the Bush administration before it, the Obama administration has put more emphasis on “workplace enforcement” than had been done in the recent past. But, the methods used have been quite different. Under Bush, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided workplaces in large-scale raids, arresting undocumented workers, holding mass-hearings, and deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants. Employers were often not fined, and there is good reason to think that employers annoyed by workers seeking improved conditions were often involved in setting up the raids. The most well known such raid took place in Postville Iowa, [fixed] but there were many others. The Obama administration has taken a different path, having ICE agents look at employment records, searching for employees who do not match known social security numbers. When many such non-matches are found, the company is notified and fined. The workers are then dismissed by the company, but so far there have not been raids or active attempts to arrest and deport the fired workers. It is possible that many will “self-deport” if they are unable to find new work.
Many people who are, in most ways, pro-immigrant oppose guest-worker programs, often because they have in mind the worst excesses of the German experience with Turkish guest-workers. These fears are largely misplaced. A sensible guest-worker program can and would include a path to eventual permanent residence for long-term guest-workers, and the 14th Amendment prevents the development of a permanent non-citizen class in the U.S. of the sort that developed in Germany. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that, given the chance, many, perhaps most, foreigners who come to the U.S. do not wish to stay permanently, but only wish to work for some time, to earn some money, and then return home. When they have a chance to do so under reasonably terms, they often do this. Though the situation is therefore a win-win one, there is currently very little hope of a sensible guest-worker program being put in place. One thing that might help that situation would be for pro-immigrant forces to accept that they have nothing to fear from a sensible program. (Those looking to learn more about guest-worker programs can benefit greatly from this article by Howard Chang , and from a popular article by Kerry Howley . Though I disagree with parts of each article, both are very useful, especially Chang’s typically careful and insightful work.)