Sanity about guest workers, from James Surowiecki

Guest workers are also, paradoxically, less likely than illegal immigrants to become permanent residents.  The U.S. already has a number of smaller–and less well-designed–temporary-worker programs, and there’s no evidence that workers in those plans routinely overstay their visas.  Mexican workers, contrary to popular belief, do not, generally, intend to live their entire lives in the U.S.  Instead, as the sociologists Douglas Massey and Jorge Durand concluded after a comprehensive study of immigrant attitudes and behavior, most want to work “for short periods to generate an alternative source of household income . . . or to accumulate savings for a specific purpose,” like buying a house in Mexico.  This is harder to do as an illegal immigrant than as a guest worker, both because illegal workers are paid less and because when an illegal goes home he runs the risk of getting caught.  One remarkable study found that after border enforcement was stepped up in 1993 the chances of an illegal immigrant returning to Mexico to stay fell by a third.

Here is the full piece.  Please leave comments of high quality.  Let’s try two new norms for comments.  First, don’t say anything stronger against another commenter (or blogger) than "I don’t agree with you John."  Second, it is fine if you are commenting on a single thread more than once, but you should be adding new arguments and material, not just debating with another commenter.

Addendum: Megan Non-McArdle makes excellent points about civility.


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