MCALLEN, RGV – ImmigrationWorks USA, a national federation of employers working to advance new immigration policies, has welcomed legislation that would create a new, state-based guest worker program.

The legislation has been authored by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado. Their companion bills would allow states to design their own guest worker programs, granting visas to workers seeking to enter the U.S. and potentially those already in the country.

Tamar Jacoby

ImmigrationWorks USA president Tamar Jacoby made the following statement about the legislation:

“The Johnson and Buck bills are an important breakthrough – a thoughtful approach to policy and a welcome new direction for the congressional debate about immigration. Better immigration enforcement is essential, on the border and in the interior. But America will not fix its broken immigration system with enforcement alone.

“The best antidote to illegal immigration is a legal immigration system that works, creating lawful channels for incoming workers who fill jobs when there are not enough willing and able Americans, growing the U.S. economy and boosting American economic competitiveness.”

Jacoby said the Johnson-Buck legislation is modeled on an innovative approach working well in Canada.

“Some states will take advantage of the opportunity, launching robust state-based systems. Others may not act at all. Some will admit highly skilled global talent, others will have greater need for farm hands or less-skilled nonfarm workers. Still others will use the program to regularize unauthorized workers,” Jacoby said.

“This flexibility makes sense in a country as diverse as the United States. No two state economies are alike. Why should they approach immigration the same way? It could also make sense politically: let voters decide how many and what kind of immigration is right for their states.”

Jacoby predicted the Johnson-Buck legislation would give the states just enough room to maneuver, but not too much.

“There are limits to the number of visas a state can issue, and the program is designed to complement, not replace, federal guest worker programs.”

Jacoby said an important provision is that any state program must allow workers to move from employer to employer within the state. She said this is the labor right that underpins all other labor rights. Another key provision, Jacoby said, is that guest workers who wish to stay permanently in the U.S. can apply for permanent status.

“These would be welcome bills at any time – creative and thought-provoking. But they are especially encouraging in today’s Washington, where few other lawmakers are giving thought to how to fix the immigration system, and those who are have focused mainly on limiting our intake, not finding legal options for the foreign talent we need to work alongside Americans and help grow the pie for everyone,” Jacoby said.

“The Johnson-Buck approach isn’t the whole answer – it doesn’t fix everything that’s wrong with the immigration system. But it’s a promising first step – the opening salvo of a long overdue conversation.”

ImmigrationWorks USA links major corporations, trade associations and state-based coalitions of smaller business owners concerned that the broken immigration system is holding back the nation’s economic growth. Its shared aim: legislation that brings America’s legal intake of foreign workers more realistically into line with the country’s labor needs.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.