WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Senior administration officials announced Tuesday night that President Bush, in an address on Wednesday, will announce a new “temporary worker program.” The plan will move to legalize the status of a portion of the estimated 8 million-12 million illegal immigrants currently within the United States.
According to one senior administration official, the proposed plan will “match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans can be found to fill those jobs.”
“This new program would be open both to new [sic] perspective foreign workers who are currently in our country, and the undocumented men and women who are currently employed in the United States,” the senior administration official added.
The official said that President Bush also plans to call on Congress to enact this legislation with other aspects of immigration reform in mind. Namely, the official said that immigration reform legislation must protect the homeland by controlling America’s borders.
“[W]e need to know who is here and what their status is,” the senior administration official said. “And so we would also work with other foreign governments to make efforts to control our border, but also enforce violations against both employers and people who are here illegally.”
The legislation should also “serve our American economy by matching willing worker with willing employer,” when “no American is available for the job,” the senior administration official explained.
“It will provide a labor supply for American employers in a way that is streamlined, efficient, clear and workable,” the official added.
The official said that the third “principle” of immigration reform legislation is that the program “should promote compassion” by understanding “the current broken system that we have with as many as 8 million people who are currently undocumented in our country, and provide a way to put them as part of the legitimate part of our economy.”
The senior administration official said at the briefing that the program should also “provide incentives for return to the home country” and call for the creation of savings accounts that “could be used for the benefit of the participant for either retirement or for a nest egg to buy land or capitalize a business, or whatever.”
“Finally, [the new program] will protect the rights of illegal workers who now live in the shadows and are fearful of coming out of the shadows, for fear of deportation. They will now enjoy the same protections that American workers have with respect to wages and employment rights and the like,” the senior administration official said.
In response to questions from reporters, senior administration officials said that the current backlog in processing work visas is being addressed and any possible increase in the backlog as a result of a new guest worker program will be dealt with once the actual legislation is determined.
“The capacity going forward, in relation to this particular initiative, will be dealt with when the Congress responds to the President’s call to deal with this immigration issue,” a senior administration official said. “And we’ll have to then see the law that can be enacted and signed by the President and how we’ll be instructed to deal with it.”
“What we’re going to do in the meanwhile is make sure that we bring new technology to the front, as we’ve been doing the last few months, to make sure that this can be expeditiously processed,” the official added.
Officials said the new guest worker program would be run through the Department of Homeland Security as is currently the case with existing temporary visa programs.
In an attempt to estimate the scope of the new program, one senior administration official said, “[A]lthough we don’t know for sure, because these are people that are undocumented, … we estimate that 7 to 8 million individuals exist in this country that would have the opportunity to seek this program.”
In comments to reporters at Tuesday’s White House press briefing, spokesman Scott McClellan said that America is a “nation of immigrants” and is “better and stronger for the contribution immigrants have made to our nation.”
“Immigration laws should meet our economic needs,” McClellan said. “And if employers are offering jobs to Americans that Americans are not willing to fill, then we ought to welcome to our country those who will fill that job. And so the President will talk more tomorrow about his plans for matching willing workers with willing employers.”
Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) issued a statement Tuesday addressing the president’s upcoming immigration proposal.
“I am hopeful that the President’s speech will describe an immigration policy that includes serious border enforcement, aggressive enforcement of our internal immigration laws, and establishment of a viable guest worker program that does not include any semblance of amnesty,” Rep. Tancredo said in a press release. “Unfortunately, early reports indicate the President’s report fails on all counts.”
“Failure to secure our borders at this point can only be considered an indication that the administration’s priority places cheap labor and political points ahead of national security,” Tancredo added.