What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Immigration Law Reform : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by Dorgan of North Dakota that would delete a temporary worker visa program/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 174)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by Dorgan of North Dakota that would delete a temporary worker visa program/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 174     May 22, 2007
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This vote occurred on an amendment offered by Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., that would strip out a provision in the underlying bill that would establish a guest worker program for immigrants. The amendment, cosponsored by progressive Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America's immigration system.

The provision the amendment sought to delete would authorize hundreds of thousands of temporary visas each year for immigrants who want to work in America. These visas would allow them to live and work in the United States for two years. The visas could be renewed twice, but the recipients would have to return home for a year in between each stay. The visa holder would be allowed to bring family members with them for one two-year stretch, though if they exercise that option it would cost them one of their renewals.

President Bush and many Republicans, backed by business groups, consider a guest worker program an essential part of any immigration overhaul. Many Democrats and organized labor dislike the guest worker program, believing it would not give guest workers a fair chance at earning permanent citizenship, among other problems.

Dorgan said he supports legal immigration through quotas, but believes that the guest worker program is more beneficial to big businesses who want cheap labor than to the American workforce.

"We ought not decide to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate that says: On behalf of those big interests, big economic interests that want to hire cheap labor through the back door—even as they export good American jobs through the front door. We ought to say this provision needs to be stricken," Dorgan said.

Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said a guest worker program is necessary because it will help "relieve the magnet for illegal immigration" (namely, jobs).

"The reason most of the people are crossing our border illegally is to get employment. There are jobs available for them," Kyl said. "People come across the border illegally, and they take that work. What we want to do is both close the border, secure the border of the United States, but also eliminate the magnet for illegal employment here, because the reality is desperate people will always try to find some way to get into the country."

By a vote of 31-64, the amendment was rejected. Most Republicans voted against the amendment, though two did not (Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and David Vitter of Louisiana). A majority of Democrats voted for the amendment (28), but a good number also voted against it (17). This is because while many Democrats dislike the idea of a guest worker program, some also were afraid that approving the amendment would tear apart the tenuous coalition that allowed such a contentious bill to be brought up on the Senate floor at all. All but one of the most progressive Democrats in the Senate voted for the amendment (the exception was Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts). Thus, the amendment was defeated, and the bill went forward with its guest worker program intact.

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