The odd thing is, I worked for Congress for a few years in 2000-2001,
and actually did some immigration work for a while, to pinch-hit for a
colleague who was on maternity leave. The guest worker issue was on
the agenda then, as it is now. As it will be for some time to come, I
Frankly, it is impossible to know with any sort of certainty how
quickly a piece of legislation will move through Congress, and what
path it will take on its journey, and whether -- in the end -- it will
become the law of the land, or simply join the stack of countless
numbers of legislative proposals that never quite make it to the
The biggest thing that the guest worker proposal has in its favor is
that it is considered a priority item by the White House. This will
certainly keep the issue in the legislative spotlight, and high on the
Also favoring quick action is the fact that the Congress and the White
House are controlled by the same party, and a party that prides itself
on its unity of purpose.
One the other hand, the guest worker program is one of those rare
issues on which some of the most powerful Republicans in Congress are
willing to oppose the White House, and challenge the President's
initiatives. Bush championed Congressional action on guest workers in
2001, and then again, in 2004. Both times, the issue went nowhere,
Now he is pushing it again, and hopes to see quick action on a bill
when Congress returns to town in September.
Quick action seems quite unlikely, though.
There are two 'camps' on the guest worker issue that are a long way
from seeing eye to eye, and each camp is powerful enough that it is
unlikely to get steamrolled. Oddly enough, neither camp is vigorously
opposed to the notion of a guest worker program. But they want some
very different strings attached, and therein lies the controversy.
One the one side are those who want to create a program to allow in
new guest workers, and at the same time, take steps to legitimize the
many foreign workers who are already here in the US, so that they,
too, can take advantage of a new, relaxed attitude toward immigrant
FOUL! cries the other side. Legitimizing the foreign workers who
snuck into our country is merely rewarding their illegal behavior. No
way will we support a proposal like that.
Intermingled with this debate is the whole issue of border security in
the post-9/11 world we now live in...this will undoubtedly get wrapped
into any legislative debates on immigration and borders as the guest
worker program is debated.
Currently, there are three proposals circulating on the hill regarding
guest workers. The main bill (at the moment) seems to be the
McCain-Kennedy proposal to allow guest workers, and to also allow
undocumented aliens to pay a fine, and any back taxes, and then be
eligible to join the guest worker program.
A competing proposal from Senators Cornyn and Kyl would greatly
increase border security, and create a guest worker program, but does
not provide a means for undocumented workers currently in the country
to participate in the program.
A third plan from Rep. Tancredo would penalize cities by withsrawing
federal funding if they do not effectively enforce immigration laws.
Tancredo's proposal would create a guest worker program, but would
probiti such workers from bringing their families with them to the US.
Your main question was: when will a guest worker program see the
light of day...when will a law get passed?
This is necessarily guesswork, of course. But I find myself in a rare
moment of agreement with Senator Frist, the Majority Leader, who is of
the opinion that no action will be taken until 2006, at the earliest.
Whether the bills are considered early or late in 2006 depends on many
variables, probably the biggest being what other items are on the
Congressional agenda? For the moment, the nomination of John Roberts
to the Supreme Court is not shaping up as a major political battle,
but that could change in a heartbeat. Then, too, if the current Chief
Justice was to retire from the Court due to his ailing health, and a
second Supreme Court nomination occurred, I think that would, likely,
become a major political contest. In that event, the legislative
agenda would slow down considerably, and the guest worker program
pushed to the back burner.
So, best guess would be around mid-2006 you can expect to see some
action -- actual floor votes -- on a compromise bill on guest workers,
although serious debates on the proposals may start up in September or
I've included, below, some excerpts from newspaper articles on this
topic that I think will add some additional perspective to this.
I think that my write-up, along with the excerpts below, should make
for a complete answer to your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you are fully satisfied.
If there's anything else you need, just post a Request for
Clarification to let me know, and I'm at your service.
search strategy -- searched Google, Google News and several newspaper
databases for [ "guest worker OR workers" ]
LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
August 8, 2005
DOBBS: ...Inside the Republican Party tonight, battle lines apparently
being drawn over broken border legislation that is set for debate in
Congress this fall. The powerful House majority leader, Tom DeLay, is
endorsing tough, new legislation that stresses enforcement over guest
worker proposals supported by the Bush White House.
...REP. TOM DELAY (R)...before Congress takes any significant
legislation, we must secure our nation's borders and enforce the
laws... We can put them [illegal aliens] in county jails. We can put
them in prisons. We can even contract with private prison builders. We
can -- if you pick up 50 to 100 of them, you can call up the National
Guard. Put up tents. Put them in the tents.
SYLVESTER: The House majority leader's remarks come as Congress
considers competing immigration reform bills. DeLay embraced
Representative Tom Tancredo's proposed legislation that would take
away federal funding from cities refusing to enforce immigration laws
and would prohibit low-skilled guest workers from bringing their
families with him. He doubts a competing bill offered by senators John
McCain and Ted Kennedy, that offers illegal aliens the most benefits,
will go far in the House...DeLay's position puts him at odds with
Republicans within the Bush administration who support bringing in
cheap labor for businesses.
SYLVESTER:...what we're seeing shaping up is a huge pre-election
battle within the Republican Party. On one side, a pro-business wing,
on the other an anti-illegal immigration wing...
The Baltimore Sun
August 14, 2005
Immigration poses tricky political issue for administration;
Deep divisions exist over what to do about illegal residents
...mixed signals coming from the Bush administration...highlight the
precarious balancing act Bush faces on immigration reform, a
politically risky effort that sparks passionate divisions in both
parties and one the president says he is determined to advance this
...Surveys also show that many Americans would support the creation of
a guest worker program, such as one Bush proposed in January 2004,
that would allow immigrants to come to the United States - at least
temporarily - to fill jobs that Americans won't take...But there is
deep disagreement about what to do with the estimated 11 million
illegal immigrants already here.
...rounding up illegal immigrants and deporting them is impractical
and inhumane, and it would be a blow to an economy that has come to
depend on them, say other lawmakers in both parties as well as
business, labor and minority groups.
...In private, Bush, Rove and other senior White House aides are
scrambling to forge an agreement that has a chance of becoming law,
hoping in the process to boost Republicans' standing with minority
voters. But in public, the president and his advisers have backed away
from proposing a solution, fearing that weighing in with a specific
plan on the emotionally charged issue could provoke a dangerous
backlash for Bush and his party.
...Conservative Republicans reacted with outrage last year when Bush
proposed creating a guest worker program that would allow both
prospective immigrants and those who are already here illegally to
gain temporary legal employment status...They accused Bush of offering
amnesty to illegal immigrants and sacrificing the nation's security to
please corporate bosses looking for cheap labor.
..."What they're pushing is amnesty, and amnesty's a rotten, lousy
public policy," said Tancredo, who has introduced legislation that
would make illegal immigration a felony and punish employers who hire
...Bush has "had a couple of false starts on the issue, and he's had
some high-profile Republicans reject him publicly, so he's fallen back
and said, `Let's plow the ground a little bit more on this,'" Armey
...DeLay has said the House won't act on a guest worker program until
it considers measures to fortify U.S. borders and toughen enforcement
of immigration laws.
San Antonio Express-News
August 8, 2005
Immigration reform seen as a tough sell for Bush
...President Bush faces an uphill battle in his push to move
immigration reform and a guest-worker provision through Congress when
lawmakers return this fall, political experts say.
...Republican opposition in the House to a temporary-worker program is
mounting, forcing the president and GOP proponents to shift their
focus to less controversial measures like border enforcement.
...Bush first proposed a guest-worker program in 2001, but the 9-11
terrorist attacks that year shelved the proposal...The president again
laid out immigration reform and a temporary-worker program in 2004...
The Houston Chronicle
August 04, 2005
Bush: 'Guest worker' plan will benefit U.S. employers ;
The president, in a wide-ranging talk, gives a hint at how he'll pitch
..."Immigration reform is going to be an interesting subject when we
get back to Washington" in September, said Bush
...Immigration reform plans have stalled in Congress so far this year,
and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist recently suggested a GOP push on
the issue was more likely to happen next year.
Again, if there's anything else I can do for you on this, just let me know.