Under the Bush plan, any undocumented worker currently working in the US would be able to obtain legal working status for an initial, and extendable, period of three years.
Ending two years of speculation as to the Bush Administration’s response to pressure to endorse US immigration law reform, the President announced a plan Wednesday aimed at legalizing many of the nations undocumented workers. Although some will question the political motivation behind Bush’s move, the proposal marks the first positive step the administration has taken toward benefits-side immigration reform since 9-11, and could make legal status available to millions of undocumented workers in the US.
Just days prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush had been presented with a bill to extend Section 245(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) which previously allowed undocumented people to obtain green cards in the US as long as otherwise eligible upon payment of a fine. It appeared that American Business, the Immigration Bar association and Mexican President Vicente Fox had prevailed upon the US Government to help pull these hardworking immigrants out of the shadows and into the mainstream of the law abiding and tax-paying public.
While 9-11 derailed the legislation, efforts to improve the economy and secure the civil rights of undocumented workers did not cease. With the war on terrorism being successfully carried out under the Department of Homeland Security, and Bush prepared to revisit the undocumented worker issue with Mexican President Fox, the Temporary Worker Program announcement comes at the precise moment in history where America need its most.
Under the Bush plan, any undocumented worker currently working in the US would be able to obtain legal working status for an initial, and extendable, period of three years. Employers willing to continue to employ such workers legally will have to show that they have made “reasonable efforts” to fill positions with US workers. Employers unable to fill positions with US workers could also bring Temporary Workers into the US to fill vacant positions. Foreign workers will be able to bring their families to the US under an authorized status as well.
The Temporary Worker program does not purport to be an “amnesty,” and the Administration has taken pains to make this point clear. No matter what the program or its implementing legislation is called, however, it could have profound, positive impact on the lives of millions of hardworking people in the US. Now it is up to Congress to put pen to paper and make the Bush proposal a viable new law and not just an empty political promise.