Foreign workers like software expert Vikas Chowdhry from India and Roberto Villarauz, a janitor from Mexico, abide by the nation's immigration laws.
They have skills their employers say are necessary to meet industry demands for highly skilled workers or for jobs Americans don't want.
Yet both are among hundreds of thousands of legal foreign workers, including software engineers, hotel employees, seafood processors, landscapers and vegetable pickers, who are in the U.S. temporarily but are caught in the polarizing debate over illegal immigration that casts uncertainty over their livelihood and future.
Legal foreign workers like Chowdhry and Villarauz might not get help until after next year's elections because Congress is deadlocked on any changes to the nation's immigration laws.
Congress defeated legislation this year to overhaul the immigration system, which would have extended and improved seasonal, high-tech and agriculture guest worker programs. About 575,000 legal foreign workers are currently in the U.S. under these guest worker programs, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
These temporary workers hold U.S. government-issued "H-visas" that proponents argue should be revised by Congress to help legal foreign workers and their employers.
For example, tens of thousands of seasonal workers at hotels, resorts and other Workforce Management small businesses could lose their jobs unless Congress renews a separate law that allows the government to issue more than the 66,000 H-2B visas it is supposed to be limited to. The exemption expired Sept. 30.
Some Democrats and Republicans, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, don't want to renew or improve any temporary worker programs until lawmakers address broader immigration reform to resolve the status of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now living and working in the United States.
Supporters of the guest worker programs acknowledge the stalemate in Congress.
"I would say that Congress is skittish" about any immigration bills said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, whose California district includes Silicon Valley and its many high-tech firms.
Lofgren, chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee's immigration panel, is pushing for reforms to improve legal immigration and guest worker programs but faces an uphill battle.
Critics of guest worker programs say they bring in cheap foreign labor that keeps U.S wages low. Others say there is insufficient enforcement of the laws to ensure workers return home after their visas expire. Some unions oppose these programs because they say there are not enough protections for workers.
"There is no doubt in my mind that some of these workers are abused because there is not enough enforcement," said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president for the Service Employees International Union. "The workers are powerless and the employers want a captive workforce."