The opposition to the bipartisan immigration reform agreement that was announced at the White House last week is proving to be broad, diverse, and determined. This week senators will begin debating and introducing amendments to the immigration bill. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) plans to introduce an amendment that would remove the guest worker program from the bill. “It is, simply put, a plan that would bring cheap labor in the back door in the form of millions of foreign workers, even as we continue to export good paying American jobs to other countries,” Dorgan said. He also called the idea that the program would only enroll 400,000 workers a myth, and said up to 3.6 million new immigrants could be enrolled in the program.

The Minnesota Senator also said that the guest worker program only applies to new immigrants, not those who are already in the United States. “Each person admitted to the United States under the guest worker program is exerting further downward pressure on wages, by adding to the number of people willing to work at low wages,” Dorgan said. He also addressed the idea that most of the jobs in the guest worker program are jobs that American workers don’t want to do. “These are not agricultural jobs. There is a separate program for additional agricultural workers. These are jobs in construction, manufacturing and transportation among other sectors. That’s the backbone of our blue-collar middle class,” Dorgan said.

Conservatives like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) don’t think the bill goes far enough on the issues of enforcement and border protection. Sessions has said that, “I will not vote for, and will actively oppose, immigration legislation that does not meet the expectations of the American people on important issues such as border security, citizenship, and a transition to a merit-based ‘points’ system.” The problem for most senators is that they have not even seen the whole final bill yet, but I think at best this reform is going to be a tough sell.

I highly doubt that President Bush will sign an immigration reform bill that does not contain his guest worker program. Perhaps, the White House and the Senate should have not tried to negotiate a comprehensive bill. They might have been better off working on the immigration issue one problem at a time. The problem with the bipartisan bill is that it only makes those happy who are running for reelection next year. It could be, and probably will be, argued during the Senate debate that this bill doesn’t do enough in any one area of the issue to be effective. However, I do think that an immigration bill will be passed this summer, but it could look much different than the negotiated agreement.

Sen. Dorgan statement

Sen. Sessions statement

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at
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