Friday, January 07, 2005

Welcome to The Jobs for South Asia Coalition

The Jobs for South Asia Coalition is dedicated to helping Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and the other countries affected by the recent Tsunami fully recover from the damage the tragedy caused. This blog will cover our attempts to provide assistance to those areas.

Indonesia and the other South Asian countries will most likely take years or decades to recover from the tragedy. Providing direct financial aid would involve sending billions of dollars over that period. It would also create an unhealthy dependency and encourage corruption. In the short-term, direct assistance must be sent. However, in the medium and long-term, an efficient way to get money directly to the citizens of those countries must be found.

Thankfully, there is a tried-and-true way to do that: guest worker programs. Under these programs guest workers can come to the U.S. for a certain number of years. They will send a portion of their earnings home ("remittances"), directly benefiting those who have been affected by the disaster. Several guest worker programs are currently under consideration in Congress, and president Bush has proposed his own program. One or more of those programs should be designated as an "emergency relief" bill and made law as soon as possible in order to benefit the victims of this tragedy.

Approximately $18 billion in remittances flows from immigrant workers in the U.S. to Mexico, and even a fraction of that amount would allow Indonesia to rebuild its towns and create new opportunities at home. At the same time these workers will help solve the labor crunch in the U.S. and help our products be produced at the lowest prices possible, offering savings to the U.S. consumer and increased foreign trade. It would truly be a win-win situation for all involved.

Passing this emergency relief bill would allow millions of hard-working Indonesians to come to the U.S. to do the jobs Americans won't do. They will be highly motivated by their desire to help rebuild their countries. Further, many of these workers are used to earning as little as one or two dollars per day. Even a slight increase in that amount would be a godsend to these people. However, in the best interests of all concerned, we believe a balance would need to be struck between offering them incentives to come to the U.S. and offering employers incentives to hire them. The best course of action would be to provide special, one-time-only liberalizations of the minimum wage, workplace safety, and employment taxation laws for those employers who would hire them.

Additional incentives can include providing the employers with subsidized dormitory housing and free passage for their employees.

If the emergency relief bill does not pass, we believe it would be morally incumbent upon those of us who wish to help this region recover to encourage Indonesians and others in the area to come to Mexico or Canada and seek non-traditional immigration routes to employment in the U.S.

An important note is that most of these employees would be Muslims. What better way to show them that America cares then to welcome them into our home and offer them employment? Employing hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Muslims in the U.S. would show the world that we do in fact care about their culture, their religion, and their region.

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