CORRECTION: This report inaccurately described the National Immigration Forum as a group that favors amnesty. Rather it is a pro-immigrant advocacy group that favors comprehensive reform.
KAI RYSSDAL: The White House advance team probably didn’t have to think too hard before they chose the Border Patrol station in Yuma for the president’s speech this morning. Yuma’s been a popular choice for illegal immigrants entering the country. And President Bush has been there before. He swung by last May, when he announced that he was sending National Guard troops to help patrol the border.
Now that Democrats are running Congress, it’s possible an immigration bill might actually pass, including item one on the White House wish list: a guest worker program.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It seems to make sense to me that if you’ve got people coming here to do jobs Americans aren’t doing, we need to figure out a way that they can do so in a legal basis for a temporary period of time.
At the same time, the Administration’s been trying to figure out how to get a reform plan passed. It’s been toughening up on illegal workers already on the job. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports.
DAN GRECH: Workplace raids have netted more than 18,000 suspected illegal immigrants since May. That’s gotten the attention of U.S. companies.
Jack Martin is with the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
JACK MARTIN: The workplace raids that have been conducted have the effect of putting employers on notice that they can’t continue to get away with hiring large numbers of illegal aliens.
Companies are starting to police themselves. Since June, there’s been a 40 percent jump in the number of businesses voluntarily participating in Basic Pilot. That’s a government program to verify the immigration status of employees.
Angela Kelley’s with the National Immigration Forum, a group that favors comprehensive reform. She says workplace raids destabilize businesses and they don’t address the broad need for low-cost labor.
ANGELA KELLEY: We’re not ever going to really fix the problem simply by raiding random businesses when you’re speaking of such big numbers — of 12 million people here, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce. What it really is going to require is an overhaul of the immigration system.
Everyone agrees on the need to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows.
Phil Kent is with Americans for Immigration Control.
PHIL KENT: Surely in agriculture, and a couple other selected areas, we do need migrant and guest-worker programs. We just need to monitor them and to know who these people are and make sure they’re decently treated and get a decent wage.
In the meantime, tighter controls have put the squeeze on industry. Crops are rotting in the fields in Arizona and Colorado due to a shortage of farm hands.
I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.
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