AJC Statement on New Temporary Worker Visa Program

AJC Statement on New Temporary Worker Visa Program

Bipartisan legislation (the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 or "SAOIA") has recently been introduced in Congress intended to enhance border security and enforcement, provide a mechanism to legalize undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, and to create a new temporary worker program for persons coming to the U.S. to perform labor or services other than those occupations classified as agricultural or high-skilled. The legislation would also encourage cross-border cooperation for enforcement and reintegration of those who return to their countries of origin and increase protections for national origin and citizenship status discrimination in the employment context.

In the past, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has generally supported legalization programs, rather than mass deportations, for illegal immigrants who have been living in the United States for an extended period of time, and encouraged the development of expanded temporary worker programs. For example, in its 1980 Statement on Undocumented Persons, AJC emphasized that

"[s]ince a majority of undocumented persons seek only temporary worker status in this country, we urge development of a reasonable and flexible program to meet this need. Expanded enforcement of fair labor standards laws in all job situations is necessary."

Most recently, in 2003, AJC reaffirmed its support for earned legalization for undocumented immigrants and expressed support for a program for temporary and seasonal foreign agricultural workers.

* * * With the understanding that it is crucial for all participants in a society to have a stake in that society, AJC has consistently recognized that serious injustices inevitably result from having a class of people in our country who lack meaningful rights under our laws. Millions of undocumented aliens residing in the United States are subject to abuse and exploitation, both because they lack certain legal rights and because they justifiably fear deportation if they seek the protection of our laws. Bringing this group of undocumented migrants out of the shadows would not only be consistent with our democratic values, but would contribute to our national security and economic well-being.

Specifically, development of a more flexible temporary visa program that provides participants an opportunity for earned legalization and that realistically reflects our needs will enable the country to better focus its resources on tracking down potential terrorists. Such programs would reduce the market for smugglers and other black market activities, including forged documents such as Social Security cards and drivers licenses, that have contributed to the numerous deaths of those who have attempted to cross the U.S. border illegally, and pose a serious national security threat. Further, because the immigration system does not adequately reflect our current or future labor needs, thousands of laborers are compelled to enter the country illegally, thereby contributing to the increasing costs of maintaining the security of our borders.

Recognizing that the majority of undocumented people come to America primarily to find work, establish stable families and make useful contributions to our economy and society, while at the same time noting the critical need to increase the security of our nation's borders and better incorporate newcomers into American society and culture, the American Jewish Committee hereby reaffirms its position as stated in its 1980 Statement on Undocumented Persons, as well as more recent statements on immigration, and recommends the following:

Acknowledging that current temporary visa programs fail to realistically account for the needs of many undocumented persons who seek only temporary worker status in this country and the country's need for their labor, we encourage the development of a new temporary worker visa program, such as the one contained in the SAOIA, that is more flexible in responding to changing economic conditions. At the same time, any such program must afford temporary workers the protections extended to American workers, as well as the opportunity to earn legalization over time for those who so desire.

Adopted by the Board of Governors on September 19, 2005.