Democrats Accept the Guest Worker Program

05.28.13 5:13 PM ET

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Fred Bauer notes what may be the single biggest difference between 2007 and today when it comes to immigration reform: Democrats have come around to guest worker programs. That comes at a cost:

The 2007 bill’s guest-worker program differs in a variety of ways from the Gang of Eight’s program. But some of the major concerns remain constant. The current guest-worker program could further drive down wages in both high- and low-skill sectors. It could empower the politically connected at the expense of the average worker. It could create a vast new, economy-distorting bureaucracy. It could harm an already-depressed employment picture (changes made to the immigration bill in markup may actually make it even easier for guest workers to displace American workers). It could undermine the ability of workers to bargain effectively for their labor. It could place more individuals in a status of legal ambiguity.

As much as it may pain some Republicans to admit, perhaps Senators Boxer, Durbin, and Sanders have a point. And as much as it may pain allies of the Gang of Eight, perhaps the criticisms of the guest-worker program raised by Senator Sessions and other conservatives are not the rantings of outmoded reactionaries but the reasoned arguments of Americans drawing from a bipartisan tradition of concern on behalf of workers’ rights, the free market, and economic opportunity.