The National Council of La Raza offers a blistering and trenchant critique of Bush’s immigration reform proposal:

The President’s proposal is limited to creating a potentially huge new guestworker program for immigrant workers with no meaningful access to permanent visas or a path to citizenship for those working, paying taxes, and raising their families in the United States. Immigrants would be asked to sign up for what is likely to be second-class status in the American workforce, which could lead to their removal when their status expires or is terminated. Labor rights for temporary workers have historically been weaker than those afforded to workers in the domestic labor force. Under this proposal, workers would be vulnerable during their temporary status, and even more vulnerable when it expires, which would also have a negative impact on wages and working conditions for their U.S.-born co-workers.

That said, President Bush, by adopting the rhetoric of the left to advance a proposal unsatisfying to left or right, has created an opening for those concerned with true progressive immigration reform to hold him accountable for the failings of his proposal to live up to his rhetoric. Left advocates are effectively doing so – it’s time for left politicians to do so as well, particularly because this legislation will never pass without their votes. Let’s keep in mind that Bush pandering for votes by playing at offering more immigrants a path to legalization beats Clinton pandering for votes by throwing them off welfare eight years earlier. The difference has everything to do with the popular movements mobilizing since then for progressive change – and it’s those movements that will bring a reform far better than the one Bush offered today. As the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride coalition argued today:

If there is any reform here, it is of “old” temporary worker programs, including the notorious and discredited “bracero” program…President Bush said our immigration laws must be “more humane.” But a policy that measures an immigrant worker’s stay in America in three-year increments is far from humane. Why buy a house or start a family, why open a business or put down roots in a community, why build up seniority on a job or train for higher skilled work, if you will have to leave it all after three or six or nine years? Why pull yourself up by your bootstraps only to have the boots themselves taken away when you’ve succeeded?

The IWFR Coalition will continue to work for comprehensive immigration reform based on the great American tradition of welcoming immigrants through an open door, not a revolving one.

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