Guest Wishes

Helen Krieble wants to end all the horsing around over illegal immigration.

Under Krieble's plan, all the laws that protect American workers would apply to guest workers -- Social Security, worker's compensation, minimum wage. She acknowledged that the program might cost employers more, but she also argued that the extra cost would be more than balanced by a steady, legal workforce. And the government could shift resources currently used to control seasonal visas to enforcing the laws already on the books against hiring undocumented workers.

Allard, who voted against the Senate immigration bill because of its amnesty provision, first heard about Krieble's plan from Representative Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, and invited her to discuss it at the hearing.

"I think it has some distinct possibilities of being a compromise between the House and the Senate proposal," Allard says today.

Helen Krieble is standing tall in the immigration-reform 
Anthony Camera
Helen Krieble is standing tall in the immigration-reform movement.

Owens remains a fan. "The Krieble plan stands above others because it effectively addresses border-security concerns while also recognizing the real need for guest workers," he says.

With Congress deadlocked, the only measure designed to curb illegal immigration signed into law this year was a bill that allows building 700 miles of fence along the 2,000-mile border. When President George Bush signed that bill, he reiterated his rhetoric that an enforcement-only approach to immigration won't work and that there needs to be a comprehensive guest-worker program in this country.

A program like the one Krieble has devised.

Representative Pence and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas both credit Krieble with coming up with the plan they used as the foundation of their proposed guest-worker guidelines. Although neither Hutchison nor Pence introduced immigration-related legislation this past session, they've suggested that their plans could serve as a middle ground between the House and Senate proposals.

Krieble says she admires their courage for even suggesting a market-based plan, even if she doesn't agree with every element that's been added to her original vision. For example, she points out, requiring workers to learn English would increase a bureaucratic burden that should be minimized for people who only want to stay here a short time. "I didn't have to learn Japanese to go to Japan," she notes.

Estimates on the low end of the scale have about 12 million illegal immigrants in this country, 250,000 of them in Colorado, according to a 2005 study by the Pew Hispanic Center. Over the past eight years, officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, have arrested fewer than 11,000 people at work sites for immigration violations -- although arrests so far this year are almost triple the 2005 rate, according to the ICE.

An additional 1,200 criminal arrests have been made at work sites over the past eight years -- but that figure includes both illegal immigrants and their employers, and ICE can't say how many of those arrested were employers.

To get even a misdemeanor conviction for hiring illegal immigrants, the prosecution must prove that a company knowingly hired at least ten people in the country illegally within the past twelve months. A handful of cases have been prosecuted recently in Denver -- including a roofing company whose owner faced felony charges but pleaded to a misdemeanor, and a couple of harboring incidents involving Chinese restaurants -- but according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the agency doesn't have a database capable of determining the number of prosecutions and/or convictions of employers accused of hiring illegal immigrants. The Department of Justice is unable to provide those same numbers on a national level.

By adopting Krieble's guest-worker program, the issue of prosecuting employers would be rendered almost moot. And the problem of the 12 million undocumented people could be solved, too.

"Anyone in the United States can get to the Mexican border in two days," Krieble points out. "So jump in your darn car, go south with a bunch of friends to share the cost of gas. Make an appointment before you go so you know that you're going to be seen by that agency at a particular time. Go to your appointment. Run through the security check. Pick up your card the next day and come back. That's how hard it should be."

Certain assurances would have to be made. Workers without criminal histories will need to know that they can get back into the country and their previous illegal entry forgiven if they ever decide to apply for citizenship. Children would be registered family members of their guest-worker parents until they turn 21 -- at which point they'd have to have a job or be in school to renew their cards, and would have to leave the country to do so. With these policies in place, the undocumented population would suddenly have the incentive to get documented.

After a certain amount of time, there could be a round-up and mass deportation of those who still hadn't complied with the guest-worker plan. But since it would be so easy for anyone to comply, Krieble says, the only reason for non-compliance would be a criminal history.

"And no, it doesn't jump you into citizenship," she adds. "Why should you be able to jump some little man or woman who has sat in the line for eight years doing the process the correct way? Why should anybody -- just because they work here -- jump that line? I refer you to the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal under the law. This whole idea of taking a group of illegals and letting them jump the line is immoral, it's un-American. If you want to be U.S. citizen, there is a process. Go through it."

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