U.S. Immigration Policy: Unilateral and Cooperative Responses to Undocumented Immigration

Author
Marc R. Rosenblum
Content Type
Policy Brief
Institution
University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC)
Abstract
This paper addresses the problem of undocumented immigration to the United States from Mexico, and current and proposed policies designed to control these undocumented flows. Undocumented migration from Mexico is a subject that already receives disproportionate attention in the sense that many and probably most undocumented immigrants in the United States do not illegally cross the U.S.-Mexican border, yet INS enforcement efforts focus overwhelmingly on these border crossers. Although undocumented Mexican migration to the United States is disproportionately targeted, the subject merits analytical attention for three reasons. First, undocumented immigration from Mexico to the United States is the largest illicit migration flow in the world, at about one million crossings per year. Second, partly for this reason, U.S. enforcement efforts devoted to controlling Mexican immigration cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and have resulted in the transformation of the INS into the largest civilian gun-carrying force in the world. And third, immigration remains central to U.S.-Mexican bilateral relations (Binational Commission 1997, Rico 1992, Rosenblum 1998) as U.S. immigration policy-making takes on an increasingly transnational character (Rosenblum 1999 and forthcoming).
Topic
Migration
Political Geography
United States, Latin America, Central America, North America, Mexico
This paper addresses the problem of undocumented immigration to the United States from Mexico, and current and proposed policies designed to control these undocumented flows. Undocumented migration from Mexico is a subject that already receives disproportionate attention in the sense that many and probably most undocumented immigrants in the United States do not illegally cross the U.S.-Mexican border, yet INS enforcement efforts focus overwhelmingly on these border crossers. Although undocumented Mexican migration to the United States is disproportionately targeted, the subject merits analytical attention for three reasons. First, undocumented immigration from Mexico to the United States is the largest illicit migration flow in the world, at about one million crossings per year. Second, partly for this reason, U.S. enforcement efforts devoted to controlling Mexican immigration cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and have resulted in the transformation of the INS into the largest civilian gun-carrying force in the world. And third, immigration remains central to U.S.-Mexican bilateral relations (Binational Commission 1997, Rico 1992, Rosenblum 1998) as U.S. immigration policy-making takes on an increasingly transnational character (Rosenblum 1999 and forthcoming). Yet despite the U.S. commitment to NAFTA and President Bill Clinton's commitment to expand free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere by the year 2005, there has been limited effort to explicitly address Mexico-U.S. immigration within the context of the deepening bilateral relationship. The failure to create a bilateral immigration policy is ironic in light of other linkages between economic integration and immigration in the EU and, to a limited extent, in the case of U.S.-Caribbean Basin relations (Rosenblum 1999, and forthcoming). The failure to pursue bilateralism is also ironic given its previous success, including during the early years of the U.S.-Mexico bracero program (Craig 1971, McCain 1970, Rosenblum forthcoming). In this paper, I summarize current U.S. policy toward undocumented Mexican immigration, which has been an expensive failure. I then take up three competing policy proposals: one pending in the U.S. Senate (S.1814 and S.1815) to expand the H-2A guest-worker program; one to construct a strict enforcement regime; and one based on linking U.S.-Mexican free trade to a free flow of labor. For each alternative, I predict likely outcomes and distributional consequences for seven types of actors (U.S. workers, U.S. consumers, U.S. employers, other U.S. citizens, undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants, and other Mexicans). I conclude that a binational approach to immigration control (a North American Common Market) is the most promising option, and I discuss its political feasibility. The Current Undocumented Immigration Policy Regime Since the late 1970s, U.S. immigration policy has made the reduction of undocumented immigration across the U.S. Mexican border its highest priority. The specific goals established by the 1981 U.S. Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (SCIRP) and reflected in congressional debate since then are to limit illegal inflows, protect U.S. jobs, and ensure that employers still have access to labor. Summary of Current Policy The current U.S. policy regime employs four approaches to deter undocumented immigration from Mexico: border enforcement,; employer sanctions; a limited agricultural guest worker program; and limits on social programs for undocumented migrants. Border Enforcement and Removal of Immigrants Since 1978, the United States has expanded border enforcement in three separate stages (see Dunn 1996). The first stage began when Congress responded to rising undocumented immigration (see Table 1) by increasing INS funding by 24 percent between 1978 and 1980 (see Table 2), with many of the new resources going to equipment and hardware. While President Jimmy Carter was reluctant to expand actual border enforcement, "the expansion of the INS was taken to an unprecedented level during the Reagan administration, as the urgency surrounding immigration and border security topics became even greater during this period" (Dunn 1996, 41). Congress passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) initiated the second stage of enhanced border enforcement as funding was increased again by a third between 1986 and 1988, and as Congress strengthened penalties against migrant smugglers. The third stage began in 1994 when the Justice Department and the INS initiated a program of "prevention through deterrence" designed to "make it so difficult to enter this country illegally that fewer individuals would even try" (GAO 1999, 3). The strategy sought to close off the most commonly used routes (through border cities) and shift undocumented traffic into remote areas where enforcement agents would have an advantage. Border escalation was endorsed by Congress in 1996 with the passage of the Illegal Immigrant Responsibility and Immigration Reform Act (IIRIRA) which authorized funding for 1,000 new Border Patrol agents and 300 new support staff each year for five years. The IIRIRA also streamlined deportation procedures, making it easier for aliens to be deemed inadmissible and removed with a shorter hearing process or none at all. Sources: INS, Statistical Yearbook,various years; Lorey 1990, tables 910, 921, 1012; U.S. Commerce Department, Statistical Abstract of the United States, various years. Separate entries for inspection for admission, detention and deportation, and Border Patrol prior to 1982; separate entry for "enforcement" starting in 1982. Sources: U. S. GPO, The Budget of the U.S. Government; and U.S. Commerce Department, Statistical Abstract of the United States, various years. Employer Sanctions The 1986 IRCA included a provision making it illegal to employ undocumented immigrants, establishing civil penalties for first-time offenders and criminal penalties for repeat offenders. While IRCA responded to long-standing calls for employer sanctions, the legislation was problematic, as several analysts have noted (for example, Calavita 1994, D. Martin 1994, Fix 1991). IRCA made it illegal to knowingly hire an undocumented immigrant, but failed to establish a reliable procedure for determining work eligibility. Instead, IRCA requires employers to fill out an "I-9" form which documents that prospective employees presented two or three of 25 possible forms of identification, making it difficult for well-intentioned employers to insure that the documents were legitimate and easy for others to plausibly deny knowledge of workers undocumented status. IRCA also included several features which guaranteed that it would not be enforced aggressively, including the requirement that INS officials obtain search warrants before inspecting agricultural worksites, and the dedication of limited funds to worksite inspections. With the passage of the IIRIRA in 1996, some enforcement problems were addressed through the creation of pilot programs to allow employers to verify citizenship status; but these programs have received limited support. Agricultural Guest Worker Program The IRCA combined the "stick" of increased border enforcement and employer sanctions with the "carrot" of the H-2A agricultural guest worker program. The H-2A program is modeled on the bracero guest worker program, and is designed to insure that agricultural employers have adequate access to labor without damaging the employment prospects of U.S. workers. Under the program, employers apply to the Department of Labor (DOL) to receive guest workers. The DOL certifies that a labor shortage exists, that wages and working conditions for domestic farmworkers will not be "adversely affected" by importing guest workers, and that housing is available. Employers then apply to the INS for approval to recruit employees, a step that is usually pro forma, but time-consuming. Finally, 60 days after initial paperwork is filed, H-2A workers are made available to employers on three- to six-month visas. Denying Access to Social Programs Finally, in 1996, Congress passed the IIRIRA, the centerpiece of which was to deny immigrants including legal immigrants access to a variety of social welfare programs. Undocumented immigrants were denied access to Social Security benefits, subsidized housing assistance, and food stamps. Legal immigration was restricted by raising the minimum household income level required to sponsor immigrants and holding sponsors accountable before immigrants gain access to means-tested benefits. Effectiveness of Current Policy Regime The current policy regime fails to meet its stated goals in almost every way: It does not deter undocumented immigration, protect U.S. jobs, or guarantee an adequate supply of unskilled labor. Deterrence of Undocumented Immigration The enhancement and expansion of immigration enforcement since the 1970s has been accompanied by an increase in the estimated number of undocumented immigrants, from slightly over 1 million when the current policy regime was initiated, almost all of whom were from Mexico, to approximately 5 million as of 1995, with about 2.7 million from Mexico. By concentrating overwhelmingly on the U.S.-Mexican border, the current regime fails to address the underlying causes of migration or to provide a comprehensive deterrent to undocumented immigration. There is widespread agreement among academics that immigration (both legal and undocumented) is a function of three types of forces: economic "pushes" which encourage people to leave their home countries, economic "pulls" which attract them to a destination, and "social networks" which facilitate flows to a particular destination (see, for example, Binational Commission 1997, Massey et al. 1993 and 1994, Stalker 1994). Official U.S. policy raises the cost of migrating at the border and attempts in theory to address only one of the three motivations for immigration, by reducing pull factors through employer sanctions and the reduction of social benefits. These policies fail to actually deter migration for three reasons. First, employer sanctions are ineffective because few resources are devoted to work-site enforcement. Between 1986 and 1997, 92 to 97 percent of all INS apprehensions occurred at the border, with 97 percent of these at the U.S.-Mexican border (GAO 1997). In 1997, 7,537 workplace inspections occurred, which was an all-time high (GAO 1997), but which still represented only about one for every seven hundred estimated undocumented immigrants. Since its peak in 1997, the INS has explicitly adopted a strategy of abandoning work-site enforcement: "It is just the market at work, drawing people to jobs, and the INS has chosen to concentrate its actions on aliens who are a danger to the community." Moreover, even when inspections are made, the structure of the I-9 form makes it difficult for the INS to prosecute employers, who therefore have no incentive to stop hiring undocumented workers. As a result, employer sanctions have had little effect on the importance of undocumented labor in the United States (Cornelius 1998, Fix 1991). Second, recent efforts to eliminate immigration pulls have focused on a "social service magnet" which probably does not exist. There is no evidence that undocumented immigrants are motivated, even in part, by the existence of social benefits in the United States. On the contrary, immigrants consistently identify the desire to find employment as their motivation for migration (Cornelius 1998, Massey et al. 1993 and 1994, U.S. Commission 1990). Moreover, when controlling for race and class, undocumented immigrants are unlikely to take advantage of social services available to them (Marcelli and Heer 1998). Preliminary data suggest that INS efforts to raise the cost of crossing the border have been somewhat successful, but that costs do not outweigh the expected benefits of migration. The most easily observed outcome of the build-up in enforcement activities has been a shift in the flow of illegal alien traffic from heavily-guarded urban sectors to less-guarded rural areas. According to the most recent figures, apprehensions in San Diego and El Paso, traditionally the sectors accounting for the greatest number of undocumented entries, dropped from 408,265 in FY1997 to 373,127 in FY1998. As a percentage of all apprehensions, these two sectors decreased from 68 percent in FY1993 to just 24 percent in FY1998 (GAO 1999, 20). A growing number of immigrants are also being apprehended at ports of entry using fraudulent documents. Third, there is anecdotal evidence that fees charged by immigrant smugglers, or coyotes, have increased since the onset of the enhanced border enforcement program (GAO 1999, 23; author interviews). Finally, the most basic measure of the cost of entering the United States is the jump in migrant deaths at the border, from almost none before 1995, to 324 in 1999. Although these observations indicate that the cost of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border has increased in response to enforcement efforts, there is no indication that costs outweigh expected benefits for most migrants. Indeed, the fact that total apprehensions along the southwest border remain near historic highs (see Table 1) suggests that the overall expansion in enforcement has had little effect. Rather, it appears that immigrants have been "squeezed" to different parts of the border (GAO 1999, Dillon 2000), and that the deterrent effect of increased border enforcement anticipated by the INS has, thus far, failed to materialize. Moreover, according to the INS's own estimates, since half of all undocumented immigrants overstay their legal entry visas, and so never cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally; the current enforcement regime makes no effort to deter these immigrants. Effects on U.S. Jobs The second goal of U.S. immigration policy is to protect U.S. workers from excessive competition. Assessing the effects of policies on U.S. labor implies two questions: first, to what extent do undocumented migrants take jobs that would otherwise be held by native workers, and second, to what extent do undocumented migrants depress wages? Both of these questions have been analyzed extensively (see, for example, Smith and Edmonston 1997), and most analysts agree that current policies have done little to limit the availability of immigrant labor or the ease of finding illegal work. Rather, consistent with dual labor market theories, the majority of recent immigrants, and especially the majority of undocumented immigrants, are employed in sectors of the economy that are shunned by native workers. Regarding wages, the conventional wisdom is that undocumented immigration has a negative effect on wages in immigrant-dominated industries, an effect felt most strongly by recent immigrants and U.S. minorities who compete with immigrants (Hamermesh and Bean 1998, Portes 1995). It is likely that negative effects are felt up the pay scale and in other industries to a limited degree. Perhaps the strongest evidence that the current regime hurts U.S. workers is fact that organized labor the group which worked hardest to obtain employer sanctions has recently come out strongly in opposition to the policy (see below). Figure 1. Agricultural and Overall Unemployment, 1950-1990 Source: Data taken from Jacobs 1999. Availability of Labor The third goal of the current regime is to guarantee sufficient unskilled labor to U.S. employers. The partial failure (at least) of border enforcement and employer sanctions as a migration deterrent implies that this goal is met. Nonetheless, agricultural interest groups and others have complained of limited availability of low-skilled workers, so the question merits attention. There is no evidence of a labor shortage in agriculture or in other unskilled sectors of the economy. On the contrary, agriculture, the service sector, and low-skilled manufacturing have consistently displayed higher unemployment rates than other sectors of the economy. A GAO analysis of 20 large agricultural counties found that 11 out of 20 had unemployment rates double the national average, and 15 out of 20 had an unemployment rate in 1997 greater than 7.2 percent. The GAO also concluded that agricultural areas have high unemployment all year, including during peak agricultural periods (GAO 1997, 27). Moreover, while agricultural unemployment has fallen from its high of sixteen percent in 1983, the ratio of agricultural to overall unemployment remains near its post-war high of two to one (see Figure 1); so there is no agricultural labor shortage relative to the overall state of the economy. Interviews in San Diego County also failed to find any evidence of a labor shortage among non-agricultural immigrant-dependent industries, including in the period after the initiation of San Diego's border build-up (Cornelius 1998). There is also no evidence that immigration restrictions have caused wages to rise, as noted above. On the contrary, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has argued that wage-depression effects of legal and undocumented immigration are primary factors contributing to high growth without inflation in the United States. Regarding agriculture, the GAO cites declining agricultural wage rates, in real terms, in the 1990s despite rising wages in other industries (GAO 1997, 28). For this reason, labor-intensive agribusiness has been highly profitable, with production increases of 52 percent in the decade following IRCA passage, and exports quadrupling to $10.6 billion (Farmworker Justice Fund 2000). Implications of Current Policy Regime for Various Economic Groups U.S. Workers As noted above, the failure to control undocumented immigration has had a mild downward effect on wages, hurting U.S. workers. Ironically, employer sanctions legislation hurts U.S. workers by making it illegal to work without documentation, but then failing to punish employers of undocumented immigrants. This policy combination places undocumented workers at a severe disadvantage in their negotiations with employers. In the extreme, employers take advantage of this asymmetry to report troublesome or pro-union employees to the INS or to avoid paying full wages. Even when employers do not resort to these methods, the threat of deportation limits undocumented immigrantsà labor rights, allows employers to maintain substandard working conditions, and discourages unionization. Given that unionization remains one of the best predictors of wage increases, the existence of employer sanctions contributes to the negative effect of immigration on wages, with some ripple effects in other industries. For these reasons, U.S. labor unions now oppose employer sanctions. Unions were at the forefront of calls for employer sanctions throughout the twentieth century (Mink 1986). But following the 1986 passage of IRCA, unions representing unskilled workers, including ACTWU (now UNITE), SEIU, and the ILGWU, changed their positions when sanctions failed to deter immigration but made organizing more difficult (Delgado 1993, Haus 1995). The campaign by immigrant-constituent unions to repeal sanctions expanded as efforts to organize undocumented immigrants also grew. In 1994, the California Labor Federation passed a resolution against sanctions; and, most significantly, in February, 2000, the AFL-CIO executive council supported a major overhaul of U.S. immigration policy: "Current efforts to improve immigration enforcement, while failing to stop the flow of undocumented people in to the United States, have resulted in a system that causes discrimination and leaves unpunished unscrupulous employers who exploit undocumented workers, thus denying labor rights for all workers. . . . We strongly believe employer sanctions, as a nationwide policy applied to all workplaces, has failed and should be eliminated." U.S. Employers U.S. employers benefit from a large pool of labor and the ability to pay low wages, but the current system is bad for employers in at least one respect. The system encourages employers in immigrant-dependent industries to break the law because those who prefer not to hire undocumented immigrants face a collective action problem knowing that their competitors are likely to do so. As a result, even though most employers are never punished for hiring unauthorized workers, individual employers are vulnerable to prosecution if they happen to be targeted. U.S. Consumers U.S. consumers unambiguously benefit from the current immigration policy regime. By failing to meaningfully control the flow of undocumented immigrants at the border or the workplace, current policy insures that the pool of unskilled labor remains large, and that prices remain low. In effect, undocumented and legal immigrants subsidize low-priced consumption in the United States by accepting low wages; and U.S. consumers pay half as much for food and other basic goods than do Europeans. Other U.S. Citizens At the same time, the enforcement-oriented regime is costly in various ways. Since 1976, overall and enforcement-specific INS funding has grown from $214.6 and $117.7 million, respectively, to $4.1 and $1.93 billion as of 1999 (see Table 2). Even these high spending levels are not enough to fund the current approach to immigration control, however: INS detention centers are filled beyond capacity, and the agency suffers from major morale and recruitment problems. Legal immigrants and U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent and all who live near the U.S.-Mexican border face additional costs associated with the current enforcement regime. Hispanic-Americans are frequently stopped and harassed by Border Patrol agents, and border area residents complain that INS tactics are destructive and display a disregard for private property. As one Texas resident observed: "The question becomes whether the benefits of the Border Patrol doing this outweigh what I consider to be the Border Patrol violating our constitutional rights." Undocumented Immigrants The current regime is both good and bad for undocumented Mexican immigrants. On the one hand, undocumented immigrants benefit from opportunities to work. On the other hand, to the extent that U.S. enforcement agents are de facto agents of anti-union employers, the current system depresses wages for undocumented immigrants below market levels. A third problem from the perspective of undocumented immigrants is the costs associated with crossing the border: the average price paid by undocumented immigrants to coyotes, or people smugglers, jumped from several hundred dollars in the early 1990s to over a thousand dollars by the end of the decade. This is not a subsidy of U.S. consumers or employers, but simply a transfer from poor Mexicans to criminal networks. Far more severe is the rising cost in deaths and injuries to immigrants trying to cross the border in remote areas. Legal Immigrants Recent immigrants also suffer under the current regime. On a general level, legal immigrants are frequently the victims of discrimination, a fact exacerbated by harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric among policy-makers. In 1996, second-class status was institutionalized with the passage of the IIRIRA, which established two tiers of legal residency, denying a range of social benefits to legal U.S. residents (Schuck 1998). Current policy provides questionable benefits to the small number of immigrants who participate in the H-2A guest worker program. While the program benefits some 15,000 Mexicans each year by affording them temporary employment in the United States, the program's poorly designed enforcement mechanisms guarantee that many H-2A immigrants do not enjoy the wages and benefits promised them under the law. In contrast to the bracero guest worker program (1942?1964), Mexican consuls play no H-2A oversight role, so the program relies on H-2A workers themselves to know their rights under U.S. law and to initiate formal complaints should they have reason to do so. Moreover, any complaints must be filed during the actual contract period, since it is impossible for the DOL to interview workers after they have returned to Mexico. For these reasons, the current system does not work: in FY1996, the DOL received zero complaints from H-2A workers about wages and benefits (GAO 1997, 10). Other Mexican Citizens Finally, the current U.S. immigration enforcement regime has positive and negative consequences for Mexico on economic and political levels. On an economic level, Mexico benefits enormously from migrant remittances, estimated at six billion dollars per year. However, because undocumented immigrants receive below-market wages, and because there are high transaction costs associated with the transmission of remittances, these flows are lower than they "should" be. Second, there are political and diplomatic costs associated with the failure to include Mexico as a partner in immigration policy-making. At least since the debate over the 1986 IRCA, Mexican politicians have generally agreed that "migration is an international problem, and its solutions ought to be reached by the countries involved and not by the unilateral decisions of a government." In recent years, Mexican politicians of the left and the right have staked out their opposition to U.S. restrictions; and there is a consensus among Mexican politicians that "our number one priority . . . is to try to guarantee that while in the United States all Mexicans, regardless of their migratory status, have their rights respected." The hostility among Mexicans to what is commonly perceived as the U.S. "criminalization" of immigration is equally strong at the mass level as well (Rosenblum 1998). Three Alternative Proposals If the current system is broken, how should it be fixed? In this section I describe three alternative proposals. One of these is currently being debated in the U.S. Senate as bills S.1814 and S.1815 to expand and streamline the existing H-2A guest worker program. The other two are at opposite ends of the possible spectrum of enforcement responses: a strict unilateral enforcement regime, and a cooperative market-based regime. I summarize each proposal, describe its likely results if implemented, and analyze how each would affect the seven groups discussed above. Expanded H-2A Guest Worker Program Proposal for Guest Worker Reform (Summary of S.1814 and S.1815) In 1996, when Congress debated the IIRIRA, several members raised concerns (as they had in 1986) that legislation to limit undocumented immigration would cause an unskilled labor shortage. Three years later, S.1814 and S.1815 propose a two-pronged program to expand and streamline the H-2A guest worker program and to provide a limited amnesty for undocumented immigrants working in agriculture. According to the bills' sponsor, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), the goals of the program are to "reform the agricultural labor market, establish and maintain immigration control, provide a legal workforce for our farmers, and restore the dignity to the lives of thousands of farmworkers who have helped make the U.S. economy the powerhouse that it is today." S.1814 proposes to reform the H-2A program in three ways. First, the program would allow a greater number of H-2A visas to be issued and allow H-2A workers to be employed in a wider range of agricultural jobs. Second, the program would streamline the H-2A application process by limiting the efforts required of employers to recruit U.S. workers before H-2A workers, and by shortening the time frame for the DOL to respond to employer requests. Third, "guest worker reform" would lower wages and eliminate housing requirements. S.1815 would complement H-2A reform by providing amnesty for certain undocumented immigrants. To qualify for temporary legal status, immigrants would be required to prove that they worked in agriculture at least 150 days in the previous year. Individuals who also work in agriculture for at least 180 days in five of the following seven years will qualify for permanent legal status. Of the total number who qualify after seven years, twenty percent will be given legal permanent resident (LPR) status in each of the following five years. Once immigrants receive LPR status, their families become eligible for family-based visa waiting lists. Five years after immigrants receive LPR status, they may apply for U.S. citizenship. Anticipated Effects of Guest Worker Reform The proposed guest worker reforms are unlikely to meet their stated goals. The most important goal of the program, based on the rhetoric of its supporters, is to assure an adequate supply of farm labor. But, as discussed above, there is no evidence that an agricultural labor shortage currently exists. Likewise, according to the GAO (1997, 24): "a sudden widespread farm labor shortage requiring the importation of large numbers of foreign workers is unlikely to occur in the near future" (see also U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform 1994 and 1997). The guest worker reform proposal is also unlikely to convince current undocumented immigrants to legalize their status because the amnesty requirements are prohibitively difficult. The informal nature of seasonal agricultural employment guarantees that relatively few migrants who worked 150 days in the previous year will be able to document their labor. Moreover, given that the average seasonal worker only works 176 days each year, it will be difficult for individuals to work 180 days in five of the following seven years, much less to obtain documentation of that work. If the likelihood of receiving citizenship by staying in the H-2A program seems doubtful, many workers will abandon the program in favor of better wages and working conditions in other industries. Moreover, the revised H-2A program will have even less effect on overall undocumented immigration, especially since only twelve percent of undocumented immigrants work in agriculture, according to INS estimates. By expanding guest worker recruitment, but making a long-term commitment to the program unattractive to immigrants, the most likely result is that the revised H-2A program will have the same result as virtually every other guest worker program in history: a high degree of "leakage" as guest workers leave the program to become undocumented immigrants. The fourth stated goal of the guest worker proposal is to protect foreign and domestic workers, and "restore dignity" to their lives. Once again, it seems doubtful that the proposed program would achieve these goals. In its current form, the H-2A visa program is criticized by workers for its weak enforcement mechanisms. The proposed revisions do nothing to strengthen enforcement, and they lower official wages and reduce benefits. Implications of S.1814 and S.1815 for Various Economic Groups U.S. Workers The effect on U.S. workers would mainly be limited to workers who compete with H-2A visa-holders for agricultural jobs. These workers would face increased competition as regulatory changes would make it easier to hire guest workers. The revised H-2A program would also maintain a bias against hiring U.S. workers by excusing H-2A employers from paying social security or unemployment taxes. For these reasons, S.1814 is opposed by every labor group in the country. U.S. Employers As strongly as U.S. workers oppose "guest worker reform," U.S. agricultural producers favor the legislation. As Western Growers Association President David Moore explained, "it is extremely important that growers of highly perishable fruit and vegetable crops be able to harvest their crops in a timely manner" (Stockwin 1999). The streamlined application procedure found in the proposed legislation is considered critical to making the H-2A program more attractive to growers. Thus, it is no surprise that the fourteen cosponsors of S.1814, the bill dealing specifically with the agricultural guest worker program, received an average 1999 rating of 81.4 (out of 100) from the American Farm Bureau Federation (author's calculation; data available at www.votesmart.org). U.S. Consumers U.S. consumers are likely to benefit slightly from the implementation of the proposed guest worker reforms, assuming savings from lower agricultural wages will be passed on to consumers. Agricultural wages are already lower than for any other sector of the economy, however, and it is unlikely that savings to U.S. consumers will be dramatic.