Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Why do the words smallpox infested blankets keep flashing through my head?
Critics of Mr. Bush's proposal note that the White House has not said how much of an expansion in the number of green cards it will seek. Currently 140,000 are issued annually for workers who are sponsored by employers, with only 10,000 of those set aside for unskilled workers. Unless the White House seeks, and obtains, a huge increase in the number of these green cards, many of the undocumented workers who apply under the president's program could face an extended wait — 10 to 20 years, by some estimates — for residency.

Administration officials acknowledge that the wait for a green card can take up to six years or longer, meaning that some guest workers who apply for green cards but do not receive them would face the prospect of being forced to leave the United States. In that case, critics of the proposal said Tuesday night, workers would be better off remaining illegal and staying indefinitely in the United States, rather than revealing themselves to immigration officials when they sign up for a program that may, these critics assert, lead to their deportation.

"They're asking people to sign up for a program that is more likely to ensure their departure than ensure their permanent residency," said Cecilia Munoz, a vice president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization.

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