House Republican Pushes 'Free Market' Immigration Bill

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Many Americans dislike the Senate immigration bill, now nearing passage, because of its "earned citizenship/amnesty" provisions; many Americans dislike the House bill, already passed, because of its "enforcement only" nature.

Now a Republican congressman is touting yet another immigration bill -- a "free market" bill, which is intended to strike a balance between amnesty and mass deportations. It would allow temporary workers into the country with no chance of becoming citizens.

Supporters of Rep. Mike Pence's ""Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act" say it would simultaneously secure America's borders -- and establish a temporary worker program "to help fill jobs Americans will not do."

Essentially, the Pence bill would separate illegal aliens into two groups: those who want to become citizens and those who want to come here only for temporary jobs.

The "temporary workers" would be allowed to apply for jobs through a private agency. Once hired, they would be issued a "biometric" identification card. When the job ends, the "temporary workers" supposedly would return to their home countries rather than staying in the U.S. and applying for permanent residency.

"The fact is 85-90 percent of people crossing our borders illegally just want to work," said the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, the free-market group that inspired Pence's bill.

"They have no intention of becoming American citizens, they have committed no other crime and pose no security risk. If they are moved to a simple legal path to enter as temporary workers, border control would be much easier and more effective," the foundation said in a press release.

"If this bill becomes law, illegal workers will be able to come out of the shadows, to bargain for a reasonable wage, to gain medical attention and other services," said Helen Krieble, the foundation's president.

"Let the free market work and our economy can remain strong while our nation becomes more secure," she added.

'Rational middle ground'

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation earlier this week, Rep. Pence (R-Ind.) called his bill the "rational middle ground on immigration reform."

He said the bill is tough on border security and tough on employers who hire illegal aliens, but it recognizes the need for a guest worker program that operates without amnesty and without growing into a huge new government bureaucracy.

Pence described his bill as a "strong alternative" to the Senate "amnesty plan," and he said he thinks it will serve as an attractive alternative to members of the House.

"Amnesty is no solution," Pence told the Heritage Foundation. "It only will worsen the problem because it will cause more people to come here illegally with the hope of someday having their status adjusted."

Pence said he envisions a four-step approach:

1. Secure the borders.
2. Deny amnesty to people who sneak in illegally.
3. Set up a guest worker program that does not lead to citizenship.
4. Sanction employers who hire illegals.

Pence said his bill incorporates much of the House-passed enforcement measure. It sets up a system that will encourage illegal aliens to "self-deport and come back legally as guest workers."

Pence envisions illegals returning to their home countries; going to private placement agencies that match willing guest workers with jobs in America (jobs that cannot be filled with American workers).

In a matter of days, Pence said, "private agencies will match guest workers with jobs, perform a health screening, fingerprint them and provide the appropriate information to the FBI and Homeland Security so that a background check can be performed, and provide the guest worker with a visa granted by the State Department."

Pence noted that temporary worker visa swill be issued only outside the United States -- an inducement for illegals to go back home and return to the U.S. through proper channels.

Pence said the guest worker/visa program depends on speed. He said private companies would compete against each other to process guest worker applicants and match the applicants with open jobs. "Imagine the application of American business ingenuity to this process. That, my friends, is why this program will work," Pence said.

And, said Pence, "with a guest worker program in place, there is no reason why an employer ever should hire or continue to employ an illegal alien." Employers who do will face "tough fines."

"We can do this," Pence said. "I believe the Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act is a solution that conservatives can embrace. I believe this legislation is a solution that those opposing amnesty can embrace. I believe this proposal offers a solution that those calling for humane treatment of the illegal aliens in our midst can embrace. And, I believe that this solution is one the American people can embrace. This is the real rational middle ground."

Some labor unions oppose any and all guest worker programs, saying they harm all workers by turning "good jobs into temporary jobs at reduced wages," as AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has said.

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