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Guest Workers Are No Longer Taboo Guest Workers Are No Longer Taboo

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WORKFORCE

Guest Workers Are No Longer Taboo

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Joe Arpiao, sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., says he supports the guest worker program but stands firm against undocumented workers.(Chet Susslin)

It’s official. Republicans are now allowed to embrace the concept of foreign workers in the United States. The official Republican platform calls for a guest-worker program. Mitt Romney wants to staple a green card to foreign college students’ diplomas.

True, some conservatives think those party leaders are soft on immigration. That’s why a foreign-worker endorsement takes on a different ring when it comes from Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, famous for signing the state’s tough immigration-enforcement law, or Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for holding county prisoners in a “tent city” with no air conditioning and forcing them to wear pink underwear.

 

Both Brewer and Arpaio say that foreign workers are OK. They stop short of saying that a guest-worker program should include illegal immigrants already in the country, but their support of foreign workers at all indicates that Republicans may be ready to embrace a broader overhaul of immigration laws than the “enforcement-only” approach taken by many other Republicans.

“If it’s a guest-worker program, legitimate, coming in from another country, I don’t think there’s any big concern,” Arpaio said on Wednesday as he took a break from a lunch meeting with the Arizona delegation in Tampa. “I’m against amnesty. I don’t go along with that for people who are already here.”

Brewer added after the luncheon: “We have to have a workable guest-worker program. It’s too important for our economy and our commerce.” Brewer and Arpaio are convinced that Romney is more understanding of their perspective on immigration than President Obama. “He understands states’ rights,” Brewer said. “He was a former governor. So we’ll be able to discuss all of these things in a much better atmosphere.”

 

Of course, Brewer’s relationship with Obama was strained even before the now-infamous tarmac incident inArizona, when cameras caught her pointing accusingly at the president. (Her son Michael is sporting a pin with the tarmac photo at the convention.)

Brewer knows that immigration reform isn’t a top-tier issue for Romney, much like Obama, who made health care his domestic policy focus. Asked if Romney would make immigration reform a priority, she simply said, “First and foremost, the priority has to be jobs and the economy.”

Arpaio, meanwhile, is slated to give a speech on Thursday at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo in front of the elephants. (No, that’s not a metaphor for Republican convention-goers. He will be at the zoo with actual elephants.) Brewer said she also might be there, although her schedule is in flux.

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