I Dated a Guest Worker

Kerry’s spate of recent writing on immigration is making me think differently.

First, prior to reading her interview with Laura Agustin, I had not occurred to me to think of a Mexican gardner as an “expat” or that relatively poor people might also be interested in traveling across borders out of curiosity or a sense of adventure. That really is shameful. My inner Kant, my inner Christian, recoils at my failure to see persons as persons as persons, all with reasons worth taking seriously, all very like my own.

Second, Kerry’s latest reply to Megan makes me realize that I have dated a guest worker! She was an au pair from Germany, in the U.S. under a J1 “exchange visitors” visa. She worked for a living, taking care of children. She came because she wanted to see America. A year later, she left, having lived the expat life while helping raise some small girls. Like most transient guest workers, she left America no worse. On the contrary. Now, if you think this case is different because she was (still is!) German, then clearly your problem isn’t really with guest workers, is it?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center