16 May 2006
Bush addresses nation on guest worker proposals
President Bush has revealed more about Senate proposals to introduce a guest worker programme to the United States.
Bush was outlining the proposed Senate Immigration Reform bill in a national broadcast on prime time television on Monday, including proposals that could see some of America's 12 million illegal immigrants eventually earn citizenship.
High on the list of priorities are plans to create a special guest worker program for an estimated 1.5 million immigrant farm workers, who could also earn legal permanent residency.
The new proposals would also provide up to 325,000 temporary visas a year for future workers, with additional visas possible based on labor market demands. New ID cards for legal foreign workers, to include biometric technology, would allow employers to verify they were hiring legal workers.
"I support a temporary worker program that would create a legal path for foreign workers to enter our country in an orderly way, for a limited period of time," said Bush.
"This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.
"A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy, and it would give honest immigrants a way to provide for their families while respecting the law. A temporary worker program would reduce the appeal of human smugglers and make it less likely that people would risk their lives to cross the border.
"It would ease the financial burden on state and local governments, by replacing illegal workers with lawful taxpayers. And above all, a temporary worker program would add to our security by making certain we know who is in our country and why they are here."
Bush did not though comment on the issue of raising the cap on H1B visas for skilled workers, which forms part of the Immigration Reform bill under debate.
Bush has so far been unable to go into specifics as to how a guest worker programme would be administered, but the Senate bill will be the subject of fierce debate over the next few months.
Immigration is an issue that has stirred up strong feelings on both sides of the divide in the US over the past few months. The House of Representatives announced plans that would criminalise illegal migrants, sparking mass demonstrations across many states.
In his speech Bush also moved to appease Conservatives by announcing that 6,000 National Guard troops would be deployed to help secure America's borders, whilst more detention centres would be built and deportation procedures speeded up.