Harvest of shame revisited

To his credit, and questions of political timing aside, President Bush is at least trying to do the right thing with his proposed new immigration policy. As the former governor of a border state, he seems to understand the shameful hypocrisy of current policy toward undocumented agricultural workers. As our cover story this week vividly illustrates, officially we try to keep them out of the country, but unofficially we need them as a cheap source of muscle power to do the back-breaking farm labor U.S. citizens refuse to do.

The result is to make it difficult and dangerous for the workers to get into the country and then, once they are here, to require them to work without any of the protections and rights afforded people with legal status. It’s a terrible situation, and the president rightly wants to correct it.

He’s proposed granting "guest worker" status to undocumented workers, with the proviso that they return to their home country after a certain period of time (three to six years). Such a program would be expensive, however, and the president already has plunged the nation deeply into deficit spending. It would also be difficult to manage. But Bush at least deserves credit for acknowledging the hypocrisy, something his predecessors didn’t do.