While the Feinstein amendment offers senators a fig leaf to avoid the dreaded “A-Word” (that’s A-M-N-E-S-T-Y) by legalizing these workers for only five years, the sunset provision is sheer kabuki theater. Everyone knows that once we start down that road there is no turning back. At some point in the next five years, the “temporary” amnesty will be made a permanent one and will likely include many other categories of illegal aliens – just to be fair to everyone who broke our laws.
California agriculture is not the only business interest powerful enough to hitch a ride on the backs of our military personnel. The Maryland fishing and tourism industries also want a ready supply of cheap foreign labor, and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was happy to accommodate by offering an amendment that exempts returning unskilled or low-skilled H-2B workers from counting against the caps for that category. (Never mind that there are fewer Maryland crabs to harvest each year, and that with the skyrocketing price of gas people may not be able to afford to drive to the Eastern Shore.) Over the next three years, the cumulative number of H-2B workers admitted could reach 432,000.
And while the Appropriations Committee was piling on goodies for the low-skill industries, they found time to take care of the lobbyists for the high tech industry as well. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Microsoft/Wash.) added a provision to “recapture” 218,000 visas for skilled foreign workers. These visas didn’t really “escape,” so much as they just went unutilized between 1996 and 2004, especially during the years immediately after the high tech bubble burst. But now high tech employers and labor contractors want those visas back, because foreign guest workers tamp down labor costs for the industry.
Americans, no matter what they might think of the war in Iraq, genuinely support our men and women who are over there serving our nation. It seems that the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee love our troops too – but for entirely different reasons: they provide convenient cover for passing special interest legislation to benefit illegal aliens and powerful business lobbies.