By Deborah Notkin, AILA Past President
In an analysis of the Gutierrez bill that gave the employment provisions for future flows of lesser skilled workers more credit than they deserve, I mistakenly assumed that hopeful workers from abroad would be linked up with the internet based program in Section 503 of the bill to put these workers in touch with employers who “have traditionally relied on unauthorized labor” in the past. But there is no link to this database. Instead the plan is to have a lottery of 100,000 for the next three years which will focus primarily on citizens from countries historically providing us with our undocumented workforce. No employment offers or family ties are part of the consideration. The lucky recipients will get to come to the U.S. for three years on a transitional visa and then have a pathway to permanent residence without the indicia of employment. They are chosen at random and after that, who knows?
There is nothing in this bill that provides for future workforce needs, despite all the statistics and historical data of the continuing need the U.S. will have for non-agricultural lesser skilled workers as baby boomers retire and our birth rate declines. And while the serious unemployment figures in our country have indeed temporarily lessened the need for foreign workers in some segments of the workforce, there are many sectors employing lesser skilled workers that still cannot fill worksite needs in this economy.
We desperately need a visa system for future flows that works in a range of economic climates, from boom to bust. We have no system to bring in non-professional skilled and unskilled workers to fill non-seasonal positions. We have had and continue to have chronic shortages in many sectors of our economy. Lack of a reasonable provisional visa program for non-professional workers to augment gaps in the domestic workforce is imperative if a legalization program is not to commit the mistakes of omission in the past Amnesty Program of 1987. That omission is the lack of a nonprofessional work visa so needed workers can come here in a safe, legal and orderly fashion.