A Compassionate Guest Worker Program

By Dean

I t is time we stopped denying reality, and link up the reality of illegal workers with the legality of our HR systems. We must provide a cybernetic mechanism that is fair and transparent, to both the guest workers and their employers. A guest worker legal framework should face our day to day reality head on, not sloganize it with slurs and rhetorical nonsense.

A Pan-American System:

All nations in the Americas should be able to participate in a guest worker program. Workers from Mexico and Central America are the predominant majority of workers who have no legal coverage in the US. Those from other nations in the Americas should be covered, if only to promote the good will of the USA in these nations, and to build a Pan-America of the future. Workers from other nations presumably will arrive with a HR-1B visa or a legal residence (green card).

Guest Worker card:

Guest workers must have an identity card issued by their national consulate, which will include their picture and reference their national identity number and/or tax id. In order to obtain their guest worker card, workers must present themselves personally at the nearest consular office of their country of origin in the USA, and present their original national identity documents.

The Guest worker ID card issued by each consulate will have a form and function agreed upon between the participating nations and the United States Government. It must provide for a positive identification of the worker, and serve as a link to the HR systems in the USA. Specifically, the consulates must submit guest worker information to the IRS and the SSA authorities in the USA. The guest worker ID would be used in lieu of the US social security number for payroll purposes.

Convert to Legal Residence:

If a guest worker can present proof of continuous guest worker status for at least three years, and has not been involved in any felony for that period of time, he or she may opt for an upgrade to the status of resident alien. The INS should establish a special fast track for this purpose, where the guest worker card is presented, along with a felony background check, and a tax clearance certificate from the IRS.

Human Rights:

The UN Charter on Human Rights should be our guide in establishing the framework for a guest worker program in the USA. Human rights are not constrained by national borders; they can not be conditioned by local or national laws. That is why they are Universal Human Rights, and the hope for humanity.

Right to Social Security:

Article 22 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, states:

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Social Security numbers need not be issued to guest workers, since presumably, they will return to their country of origin once they have accumulated enough savings to provide for their families back home. The Guest ID number can be used instead of a social security number to provide for a link to the pension and social security disability benefits which are required under law. However, in agreement with the pension administrations from each participating nation, the social security funds paid on behalf of guest workers would be transferred to each nation's own social fund, on behalf of the guest worker, i.e. into his own national account.

Workers Rights:

Article 23 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, states:

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

All worker's rights must be guaranteed for guest workers, as, presumably, they are for resident and citizens of the USA. In particular, unemployment insurance must be provided by each nation of origin, in a reciprocal agreement with the USA. The funds for unemployment insurance must be reverted to each nation, to be paid out on behalf of the unemployed worker. An unemployed guest worker should not claim unemployment insurance in the USA, since such an eventuality would be contrary to his/her status as an active guest worker.

American employers can hire any guest worker if they chose to do so, as long as the worker presents a valid guest worker ID card. The guest worker card serves as a social security number for tax purposes. Federal, State, Medicare and FICA withholding is done in the same manner as all other workers. The SSA will separate the funds by provenance, and remit them to each nation's own social fund on behalf of each guest worker. Each state's Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fund will similarly remit the guest worker's unemployment funds to each participating nation's social fund.

US Employers must provide the same Workmen's Compensation insurance to guest workers as they do for those with a resident status, or to citizen workers.

Employers must be protected against lawsuits from guest workers for practices considered unfair in the two other legal categories, namely promotional opportunities. It would be impractical to provide for legal protection in these cases, since the guest worker status is a temporary entity, which will terminate either with the worker's return to his home country, or with a legal residence in the USA.

Right to Education:

Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, states:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Guest workers and their immediate family members must have equal access to both elementary and secondary education. Access to Technical and Professional education must not be barred to those with guest worker status, but provided solely on the basis of merit.

Right to own Property:

Article 17 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, states:

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Guest workers must have the same property rights as legal residents of the USA. A guest worker ID will be sufficient identification to fully participate in the civil and business life of the USA. In particular, a guest worker ID must be suffice to obtain a driver's license in all states, to open a bank account and to enter into any legal contract agreed upon by both parties.

Freedom of movement:

Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, states:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country

Freedom of travel must be guaranteed to guest workers and their immediate family members, for as long as the worker's guest permit is in force. This provision will help reduce the large number of deaths that occur in border crossings from Mexico, where year after year, hundreds of immigrants find death instead of their hope for a better living for their families back home. Re-entry must be allowed with a guest worker card, for a total of three work-years.


Where there is a political will, there is a technical way. We must strive to provide the closest link between reality and legality. This is best done via cybernetic systems, where the details of the arrived at solution are transparent to the millions of workers and employers in the US.

We must be compassionate and at the same time provide for a legal/cybernetic framework that is fair and uniformly applied. Not to do so will only foster a black market economy that is not in the interest of anyone, save those who exploit those workers who are in the US simply seeking temporary employment.



August 24, 2001

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