San Diego Union-Tribune

July 13, 2001

Guest-worker program called misguided


WASHINGTON -- A new guest-worker program envisioned by U.S. and Mexican policy-makers is a misguided effort to deal with Mexican immigration, which has flattened wages for American laborers, according to a research group that seeks to limit immigration.

The report by the Center for Immigration Studies was immediately attacked by immigration advocates who called it misleading and said it was unfairly "trashing" Mexican immigrants.

The study, released yesterday, painted a bleak picture of the economic impact of the migration of primarily low-skilled Mexican immigrants.

The Washington-based center's study contended that an influx of unskilled Mexican immigrants fuels poverty by tending to "reduce wages for workers who are already the lowest-paid," said Steve Camarota, the group's research director.

"This cheap labor comes with a cost," Camarota said.

Also, second-and third-generation Mexican immigrants aren't closing their wage gap with American-born residents, primarily because of the lack of education, Camarota said.

Guest-worker programs being discussed by top-level Mexican and U.S. officials would "still adversely affect the wages of the lowest-paid Americans," the research said.

Immigration advocates have a different view.

"Instead of trashing Mexican immigrants and their contributions to this country, we should be praising their hard work, their perseverance in the face of unrealistic immigration laws and their dedication to doing the jobs that might go unfilled were it not for their participation in our labor force," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.