Note: The Seattle PI has an MP3 available to download of a conversation with the paper’s editorial board. Video of this event should be available soon from TVW.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez brought the issue of immigration reform to Seattle on Tuesday, calling it “the domestic social issue of our time” and a challenge that can be an opportunity.
“We’ve dealt with immigration in the past,” he said.
But sorting out the details of the current state of immigration in the United States remains a hurdle.
Those details, he said, include: How to handle the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, their 3 million children, labor demands of U.S. companies, a possible visiting-worker program and border security.
Gutierrez, who was visiting Seattle as part of a national tour, spoke at the Washington Athletic Club as part of a meeting sponsored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and several business groups.
The presence of so many business groups was fitting, given the need for workers in state industries ranging from agriculture to high technology.
While border security is a top priority, Gutierrez said a comprehensive reform package must keep in mind the need for goods and services to freely enter and leave the country.
He also talked about a possible biometric identification card for guest workers. A card would be hard to tamper with, could include a fingerprint and would help employers ask for a standard form of identification when hiring workers.
If guest workers had those cards, it would send a message to those who lack them that it would be hard to find work in the United States, he said.
He also emphasized the need for effective interior enforcement with immigration, saying that an underground economy of workers exists, partly because there are jobs that U.S. citizens are unwilling to do for certain reasons. It is time, he said, to bring workers in this underground economy into the open.
Photos Copyright 2006 Discovery Institute