- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The latest proposal in Congress for a “guest”-worker program would allow unlimited immigration of eligible workers during the first three years and allow them and their families to remain here indefinitely.

Offered by two Republicans, the plan is criticized by proponents of stricter immigration laws. They say the program would tilt the nation’s immigration system toward millions of uneducated, unskilled workers.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said yesterday that they offered the proposal as a compromise to end the deadlock in Congress over immigration reform. House Republicans favor securing the border and enforcing current laws, while the Senate demands “comprehensive” reform that secures the border and implements a guest-worker program.

Under the Pence-Hutchison plan — a variation on a proposal Mr. Pence floated earlier this summer — the expansive “guest”-worker program would not begin until the president certified that the border had been secured. Only then would laborers matched with willing employers at an “Ellis Island Center” outside the United States be admitted indefinitely.

“We would set actual benchmarks that would provide border security,” Mrs. Hutchison said.

Detractors are skeptical that President Bush would provide an honest assessment of border security and questioned the commitment of Mr. Pence and Mrs. Hutchison to tough immigration laws and stricter borders.

Team America PAC, a group co-founded by Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, has began a “Pence Watch” on its Web site (www.teamamericapac.org) and dismissed the proposal as a “massive amnesty” and an “atrocity.” Although Mrs. Hutchison opposed the Senate bill that many consider to include a grant of amnesty to many of the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens, she voted earlier this month against including federal funds in the homeland security appropriations bill to pay for 800 more Border Patrol agents and fencing along high-traffic border areas.

“Having employers which have already broken the law determine the number of cheap foreign workers that will be admitted into the U.S. is a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse,” said Mr. Tancredo, who is no longer directly involved in Team America. “No plan that allows temporary workers to stay permanently is a ‘guest’-worker plan.”

Among Republican leaders in both chambers, the proposal was received warmly.

“We want a strong bill that enforces our laws and strengthens the border,” House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, told reporters. “I think this is a contribution, a step in the right direction.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, also was encouraging.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the proposal was simply another distraction aimed at killing the Senate bill.

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