Immigration Law: Still a Sham
House Republicans passed H.R. 4437, titled the “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.” This bill is a sham that punishes the wrong people and will do very little to actually stop illegal immigration–instead, it will simply fill up jails with people who are just trying to look for work.
The key to illegal immigration has always been ignored. Politicians–and most people–seem to think that it’s the fault of the aliens coming across the border. They’re to blame, they believe.
Wrong. People streaming over the border is the symptom, not the actual problem. The problem lies with us, not the people starving for work. It’s very simple: aliens would not be entering the country illegally unless there were jobs being offered to them. And that’s where the problem lies. We’re the problem. We’re the ones who create the market. We’re offering the illegals jobs. We’re telling them to come.
A man desperate to find work to feed his family is not, by nature, a criminal. The criminal is the man who does not want to pay a fair wage or pay the requisite taxes that a citizen or legal immigrant would require, so he seeks out undocumented aliens to do the job, knowing it to be illegal.
And yet, we don’t want to admit that we’re the problem. So instead, after inviting illegals to stream over the border, we then punish them for the crime we are guilty of.
The solution to the problem is simple: stop the Americans who are hiring illegals. If there are no jobs for illegals, the word will get out, and they’ll stop streaming over the border. Read over the new bill. Try to find anywhere that outlines penalties and punishment against those who hire illegals. I couldn’t find it. The bill focuses only on immigrants, not one bit on illegal employers. The bill would make it a felony to cross the border or to help someone crossing the border–but does not strengthen the penalty or enforcement against those who hire illegals.
True, laws exist making it illegal to hire undocumented aliens–but they are rarely enforced. And that’s the dirty little secret: we push to punish the poor and the hungry who want a better life, and let the employers who encourage and exploit these people get away scot-free. In 2004, only three companies were cited for hiring illegal immigrants. (During the Clinton administration, more of an effort was made–417 businesses were cited in 1999, though still a tiny number compared to the total number of violators.) Employers are virtually unpoliced. Fines to employers can be as low as $275 per offense (no jail time), and are often negotiated downward.
Many believe we turn a blind eye on the employers because we need the workers–but that’s not true. We could bring the workers in legally, without too much hassle. But if we did that, then minimum wage laws would apply, and employers would have to pay taxes on the wages–and that’s the key to the whole story. To support these businesses in their desire for a cheap, disposable labor source, we instead heap invective, blame, and punishment on the backs of those who are being taken advantage of. The classic case of “blame the victim,” the high state of the conservative art.
H.R. 4437 will do little or nothing to solve the problem. Employers will still offer the jobs, and people starving for work will still risk all to get it. They’re risking their lives now, why should a felony arrest stop them?
You want to really stop the problem? Enforce the penalties against employers. In fact, make the penalties harsher, and then enforce them to the limit of the law. At the same time, create a guest worker program where aliens can get a work visa cheaply and easily if they have a legal sponsor. Documentation to be carried at all times, in the form of a wallet-sized card made extremely hard to counterfeit.
Employers will try to claim that they were fooled, that they believed the employee was legal. Solution: make it the responsibility of each employer to get the visa and bring the worker in, then send them out when the contract has finished. No more hiring from the back of a truck. The employer would be required to have a paper trail going back to the worker’s entry into the country. The bureaucratic machinery would have to be set up carefully so as to make it cheap and easy to accomplish this. I know it can be done: I am hired on exactly such a visa (in fact, a more elaborate visa), here in Japan. It costs my employer very little time and effort. A similar program in the U.S. would not make it an undue burden even for the lowest of employers.
Any employer caught hiring an illegal the first time would be slapped with a $5000 fine and a stern warning. Second offense: thirty days in jail and a $20,000 fine. Third offense: five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. No exceptions, no excuses. Prison time to apply both to the person doing the immediate hiring and to the owner and/or top officer of the business. (At least one bill in this spirit was introduced in 2005 by two Texas Democrats, but the Republican majority shunted this to a committee where it now languishes.)
But enforcement is key: take the bulk of the force hunting down illegals and set them to hunt down employers. Make it so that an employer hiring an illegal stands a better-than-50% chance of being caught.
Then watch illegal immigration dry up.
President Bush has long called for a guest worker program, and I have actually praised him for it–but only on the condition that he focuses enforcement and punishment on the employer, not the immigrant. Bush has used the issue in his long-standing attempt to draw Hispanic voters over to the Republican Party. Just days before everyone got sidetracked by 9/11, Bush said the following:
The truth of the matter is that if somebody is willing to do jobs others in America aren’t willing to do, we ought to welcome that person to the country, and we ought to make that a legal part of our economy. We ought not to penalize an employer who is trying to get a job done, who hires somebody who is willing to do that kind of work.
Which is why I don’t think the problem will be solved by Bush’s solution–he wants a guest worker program, but will never punish an illegal employer. And that, of course, will make any guest worker program a facade, a sham–illegal employment will still flourish, as will illegal immigration. The only result is that the hypocrisy will escalate to the point where politicians will blame the immigrants even more. They’ll say, “we’re offering them legal work, and still they come in illegally! They could easily get a visa, but they prefer to break our laws!”
When the truth will be that few legitimate visas will be offered (and all will be snapped up quickly), but the bulk of jobs offered to immigrants will continue to be illegal in nature.