Monday, February 26, 2007

Transient Servitude: The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers

BY Richard D. Vogel. January 2007

Defining moments in the history of a nation are time and again overshadowed by the drama of war. These critical events are often domestic policy decisions that affect the immediate state of a country and have serious consequences for the future. Significant examples in U.S. history include: the initial decision of the revolutionary government to found a republic dedicated to the lofty principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” but embracing slavery, a contradiction that ultimately led to civil war; the decision to prematurely end reconstruction efforts in the South after the Civil War, a policy reversal which allowed the long-term oppression and exploitation of the emancipated slaves and their descendents; and the decision during the Second World War to encourage the mass migration of poor African Americans from the rural South to the industrial centers of the Midwest and Northeast to support the war economy, a haphazard resettlement program that resulted in the ghettoization and continued oppression of a significant national minority.

The United States is currently at war and, simultaneously, at another historical crossroad of domestic policy that will not only undermine the economic life of working people, but will tax the social and political institutions of the nation at large. The stakes of the unfolding U.S. strategy to exploit millions of Mexican and Central American laborers as transient servants through a national guest worker program are staggering. Since a major component of the plan is to recruit or deport the unauthorized migrant population currently residing and working in the United States, a look at the target population suggests the scope of the strategy and its consequences.

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