Are the Republicans assembled in Tampa next week going to adopt a platform that marks a significant change in the party’s position on immigration law enforcement, amnesty or border security? No.
But that’s not controversial, so the media are trying to manufacture a controversy where none exists. I see no problem in supporting the draft platform on immigration as adopted in Tampa on Tuesday, including its call for a new guest worker program.
I could have written that part of the platform myself. In fact, I did. In 2004. I wrote and introduced a bill in Congress to establish a new legal guest worker program.
The open borders lobby did not like my bill because it authorized temporary guest worker visas for foreign workers in occupations and in states where the U.S. Labor Department could certify an actual labor shortage.
The proponents of new guest worker programs always claim that employers cannot find legal workers in certain fields. Well, where that can be demonstrated, there should be a remedy.
The real story in Tampa is the amazing consensus among delegates on immigration enforcement and the continuity in the party’s immigration platform from 2008 to 2012. The draft 2012 platform calls border security the top priority, explicitly rejects amnesty, and endorses a phased-in federal E-Verify requirement for all employers. It does not endorse the “Dream Act.” What’s not to like?
There is nothing objectionable per se about a call for a new guest worker program. We already have many guest worker programs, and one more won’t make any difference — as long as all the provisions in those laws are enforced. And if they are not going to be enforced, then they would be contrary to the party platform.
Let’s take the example of agriculture, which is perennially cited as the prime example of a business sector suffering labor shortages. It is true that it is hard to find Americans willing to work at harvesting some crops, even at $10 or $12 an hour. So, why not allow farmers to hire foreign workers to harvest those crops?
It is such a good idea that Congress has already done it! The federal H2(A) program allows farmers to hire an unlimited number of seasonal foreign guest workers.
So, why aren’t farmers using this existing guest worker program? Too expensive and too bureaucratic, they say. The problem with that complaint is that those added costs come from provisions that labor unions insist be included in the program. For example, employers must provide transportation, housing and health care for the guest workers. Are Republican delegates in Tampa going to propose a new guest worker program without those provisions? No. And by the way, neither will the Democrat delegates in Charlotte.
The large majority of Americans do not see a dire need for millions more low-skilled workers who will compete with citizens and legal immigrants for scarce jobs — especially at a time of 8.3 percent unemployment. Where is the labor shortage outside some sectors of agriculture?
The 2012 Republican platform on immigration will be honest and straightforward. Republicans want true, demonstrated border security, enforcement of current immigration law, and a reform of legal immigration to give higher priority to visa applicants with in-demand jobs skills. Republicans also promise an end to Obama’s amnesty-by-decree, which is not only a bad policy rejected by Congress five times in the last decade, it is also unconstitutional.
Republicans have a clear vision for true immigration reform and a return to the rule of law. The party platform will reflect the broad consensus among Americans that immigration reform must begin with border security, not amnesty.
When President Mitt Romney addresses the Congress for his first State of the Union message next February, you will hear echoes of the principles and proposals adopted in Tampa. A growing majority of Americans are looking forward to that message and to that return to the rule of law.