In January, President Bush introduced his immigration reform
plan that could, if enacted, help the roofing industry
tremendously. But the plan has caused fervent discussion among
those most affected—employers and employees.
Bush supporters say offering undocumented workers temporary
legal status enables the government to keep better track of
immigrants, as well as provides a steady stream of willing workers
to industries that rely on manual labor. Many legal U.S. workers
avoid such jobs now because the pay is so abysmal; forcing
undocumented workers out of the country undoubtedly would make
employers pay higher wages as the U.S. population shifts to fill
vacated jobs. And significant increases in pay for agricultural
labor, for example, could have dramatic effects on the economy as
produce prices skyrocket.
But some Bush opponents take issue with the fact that the
proposal stipulates a worker must return home to collect a portion
of his wages. The plan guarantees temporary legal status for at
least three years until a job is done (the status is renewable) and
is not a path to permanent residency. (Temporary legal status will
neither help nor hinder a person from seeking citizenship or a
green card—the designations would be mutually exclusive.)
Once a worker no longer is needed for a particular job, he must
return permanently to his home country to collect pay that was
withheld as an incentive for him to return. According to the plan,
wages would be diverted into tax-preferred savings accounts only
collectable in workers' home countries.
The plan bears similarities to a program the United States used
during World War II when few able-bodied males were in the country
to perform manual labor. As a result, the U.S. government opened
its borders to Mexico and urged Mexican men to work in the United
States. The system had a provision that set aside 10 percent of
workers' wages until they returned to Mexico. As of 2001, few
workers have been able to collect their money, and a lawsuit has
been filed in federal court against the U.S. government, as well as
banks that were supposed to transfer the money. It's this fear that
keeps many immigrants from embracing Bush's plan, as well as the
idea that many immigrants come to the United States with the hope
of making it...
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