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America gets little from senators’ amnesty plan

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Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2001 10:00 pm

Let's check in on the recent activities of five of our most prominent United States senators: Phil Gramm, R-Texas; Zell Miller, D-Ga.; Pete Domenici, R-N.M.; Jim Bunning, R-Ky., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

These senators are part of that august body of 100 legislators who every six years pledge, by golly, to do the best job for America and Americans that anyone can imagine.

"Vote for me and you're future will be secure," they say.

The five must have a curious definition of what is best for America. As their first matter of business in 2001, the group took a (taxpayer-financed) trip to Mexico to meet with President Vicente Fox.

During the 90-minute meeting, the senators and Fox discussed everything from the North American Free Trade Agreement to congestion at border checkpoints. Joe Guzzardi

But, in what they described as their most significant achievement, the senators expressed unanimous support for a new "guest-worker" program for Mexicans. The new bill would grant amnesty to those currently working illegally in the U.S. while allowing others from Mexico to apply for work in this country.

According to Gramm, in addition to amnesty the workers would receive medical and health insurance. That is an extraordinarily generous offer given that millions of American workers don't have health insurance.

What are these senators thinking about? In what possible way does awarding legal status to 7 million illegal aliens and paving the way for millions more benefit the American people?

Can you imagine that the residents of Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Kentucky and Idaho have as one of their top priorities granting legal status to illegal aliens?

Do you suppose that they favor the idea of an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico to meet with the completely untested Fox to discuss ways to bring more undocumented workers to America?

Is there any reason why the U.S. should be courting Fox?

Fox's presidential seat isn't even warm yet. Mexico has an uninterrupted string of seven decades of scandal and corruption. Who is to say things will change with Fox? Sure, he looks good now, but the new guys always do.

Gramm claims that his plan, which he predicts will have the eager support of President-elect Bush, will give the U.S. "the ability to control our borders and to stop illegal immigration."

Unfortunately, Gramm predicted in 1993 that NAFTA would bring an end to illegal immigration. The exact opposite occurred.

The harsh truth is that Gramm and the rest of his traveling minstrel show don't give a tinker's damn about what happens to Mexican workers. They're not concerned with the plight of American workers, either. What they do care about is themselves and their financial backers whose futures depend on cheap labor.

Two prominent Mexican social scientists, Manuel Garcia y Griego, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and Andres Jimenez director of the California Policy Seminar at the University of California have come down hard on any type of guest ag-worker programs.

In a New York Times opinion column, Garcia y Griego and Jimenez claim that plans to bring in more migrant workers "threatens the living standards of farm workers already in the U.S., many of them legal Mexican immigrants who hold these seasonal back-breaking jobs."

"What useful purpose could be served by bringing in foreigners to compete with workers whose low wages already make them eligible for food stamps?" ask the professors.

Continuing, Garcia y Griego and Jimenez observe that contrary to Gramm's predictions, "if experience is a guide a new labor recruitment program that does not also include new enforcement efforts is likely to result in a rise in illegal immigration."

In conclusion, Garcia y Griego and Jimenez write that such legislation "has the potential not only to create new problems for a segment of the working poor but also to complicate our immigration policy and strain our relations with Mexico. It may benefit a few large growers and food processors but it is bad news for everybody else."

Garcia y Griego and Jimenez's reference to how guest-worker programs "benefit a few large growers and food processors but is bad news for everybody else" is worth dwelling on.

Make of this what you will, but Sen. Gramm, who has traditionally opposed amnesty programs, is married to Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm, the former chairwoman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

And, on April 20, 2000, Dr. Gramm was elected to the board of directors of Iowa Beef Packers, reportedly one of the largest employers of illegal aliens in America.

Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.

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