Tweaks May Boost Guest Worker Pool

Bush plan to ease visa requirements draws fire from both sides of debate
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2008 11:11 AM CST
Former farm worker Maria Luz Rayes picks organic parsley Monday, June 18, 2007, in Salinas, Calif. Through the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association, Reyes learned to run her own farm on leased...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – With immigration reform having failed in Congress, the Bush administration is today unveiling a plan aimed at boosting the US guest-worker program. President Bush's plan would simplify the much-derided bureaucratic program, providing a reliable source of legal workers to replace illegal immigrants. But anti-immigration groups say the changes will cost Americans jobs, and pro-immigrant advocates say it’ll reduce already-low wages.

Illegal immigrants may account for as much as 70% of US farm workers, compared to just 2% from the H-2A visa program, the Los Angeles Times reports, so border crackdowns are devastating the workforce. “Simply tweaking regulations can’t fix that,” says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is pushing hard for abandoned legislation that would allow more workers, and give them a path to citizenship.