Mexico argues 'guest worker' plan would benefit US but not Mexicans

Mexico is not at all pleased with President Reagan's "guest worker" program, arguing that the main beneficiary will be the employers of the United States southwest.

The plan is not an "act of generosity," as it has been billed by Reagan administration spokesmen, say Mexican officials. It is viewed here as a program than benefits the US, not Mexico.

Both Mexican government officials and private and analysts here have reacted negatively to the proposal that would admit 50,000 temporary workers a year to the US as part of a US immigration program.

Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo earlier said the Reagan proposal had some benefits for Mexico, but he hedged the issue and his government's attitude now appears more negative than positivie on the program.

Jorge Bustamante, director of the US-Mexico border studies program at El Colegio de Mexico, says Mexican analysts and government officials view the program with considerable suspicion.The tendency here is to beleive somewhat cynically that the program will benefit the US more than Mexico, where there is a whopping surplus of labor due to the fast spiral of population.

It is noted here that the Reagan administration concentrated on the need for agricultural workers when it presented the guest worker concept.

But Mr. Bustamante argues that the US demand for migratory labor is no longer primarily in the agricultural sector, but in the garment and seasonal service industries. (Seasonal service industries would include resort hotels and restaurants.)

He urges that both US and Mexican labor officials be brought into discussions on the program and that they negotiate with US employers the conditions under which seasonal workers from Mexico would come to the US.

He would also take government out of the picture. "The government should not be running this," he says."Employers in the garment industry or the hotel industry or the farmers should say how many workers they need and negotiate with organized labor from both countries."

The Bustamante view reflects widespread Mexican uneasiness about US immigration programs and longstanding Mexican objection to the old "bracero" program of the 1950s. The US, Mexico argues, benefited more from that program as well. The proposed guest worker program clearly borrows some aspects of the bracero program.

"We do not want to go back to the era of the 'bracero' program," a government official said recently.

Yet there is recognition that some sort of regularization of the flow of Mexican immigration into the US is needed. Mr. Bustamante says that the immigration flows "like a river," high in the summer and low in the winter.

The exact number of illegal immigrants is hard to gauge, but estimates range from 400,000 to 1.5 million yearly, although many of these are stopped and turned back.

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