An Immigration Compromise?

Are guest workers the solution?

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The economic crisis seems to have pushed the immigration debate to the wayside--even though lifting restrictions on foreign workers could arguably be a big stimulus in itself. But that doesn't mean that some on Capitol Hill aren't still trying to bridge the gap between people who don't want any kind of "amnesty" and those who want to make legal immigration easier.

The nonprofit group the Krieble Foundation recently promoted its " Red Card Solution" to the immigration issue with an event for members of Congress and their staffers, and they also had a National Press Club event where some members of prominent free-market groups like Freedom Works.

What's the idea?

* The U.S. government authorizes private employment agencies to grant temporary non-immigrant work permits. Foreign workers apply in their own countries for the permits.

* Job applicants are matched to current, unfilled U.S. jobs; temporary, non-immigrant workers fill a specific job for a specific time and may return home when the job ends.

* Permits are in “smart card” biometric data, enabling border authorities to see that temporary workers enter legally for pre-agreed employment and return when the work ends.

* All permit holders must pass criminal background checks in their home-country databases and in U.S. databases.

It's far from a real free market for immigration. But is this a good compromise with the "no amnesty" crowd? I asked advocate of (more) free immigration and blogger Bryan Caplan of George Mason University what he thought. He said that while tying guest workers to specific jobs creates a lot of problems like potential abuse by employers, such a plan would stillI probably be "a big improvement over the status quo."