What does Guest Worker mean?
A United States guest worker is a person who is allowed to enter the United States for a specific period of time to work; generally to do work that cannot or will not be done by U.S. citizens. A guest worker does not, however, have the right to remain in the United States permanently. Current U.S. immigration laws allow a specific number of guest workers in certain categories such as agricultural workers, nurses, and others who have a high degree of ability in science, art, education, business, or athletics.
Right now the U.S. legislature is debating comprehensive immigration reform. One component of the new piece of legislation deals specifically with the guest worker program. Critics of the current guest worker program, however, argue an overhaul is necessary because there are currently labor and human rights violations which are committed by employers take advantage of a highly vulnerable workforce. Critics argue guest workers are frequently exploited and are cheated out of wages, forced to work low-wage and/or temporary jobs, potentially "held captive" by employers who have their documents, may have to live in intolerable conditions and may be the target of human traffickers. Critics argue the program should not be expanded or used as a "model for immigration reform."
Critics also argue the current U.S. guest worker program discriminates against U.S. workers who are frequently passed over for guest workers who do not cost as much to hire and do not have the ability to fight for higher wages or better working conditions.