According to Tamar Jacoby, the recent arrest of 1,300 suspected illegal workers at six Swift & Co. meat processing plants demonstrates the need for 'comprehensive immigration reform.' I don't understand:
1) "Comprehensive" reform is supposed to be a deal in which amnesty for current illegals (and a guest worker program) is coupled with a tougher workplace enforcement program to block future illegals. Sounds good, but the last such "comprehensive" reform--the1986 amnesty--failed miserably when its workplace enforcement program turned out to be ineffective at stopping employers from hiring illegals. The idea behind the current Bush proposal is that this time workplace enforcement will work. But, as the New York Times notes, Swift & Co. in fact particpated in the
the federal Basic Pilot program, a system of checking Social Security numbers that President Bush has touted as a way to crack down on immigration fraud.
How does it increase our faith in "comprehensive" reform if the sort of "reliable verification system" that President Bush himself touts failed conspicuously to stop so many illegals from getting jobs at Swift that they made up 10% of the company's work force?
2) Jacoby praises Swift for "trying to comply" with workplace enforcement laws. If this is the result that's achieved by a firm "trying to comply," how awful will the results in the future be with firms that are maybe not trying so hard to comply?
3) Jacoby notes that when Swift & Company "tried inquiring" more deeply into the backgrounds of job applicants, it was "sued for discrimination by the Justice Department." Couldn't President Bush--if he cares so much about workplace enforcement--have told the Justice Department to cut it out? If a conservative Republican president won't rule out crying "discrimination" when immigration laws are applied, why do we think a liberal Democratic administration will? And even if the government doesn't sue to block effective inquiries into illegal status, won't the ACLU and other "civil rights" groups? The ACLU just sued a Dallas suburb that passed a law against renting to illegals. Hispanic activists, including big groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) protested the Swift raids themselves.
"This unfortunately reminds me of when Hitler began rounding up the Jews for no reason and locking them up," Democratic Party activist Carla Vela said. "Now they're coming for the Latinos, who will they come for next?" [E.A.] **
Hmm. If enforcing immigration laws at the workplace before the passage of "comprehensive" immigration reform reminds Hispanic activists of Hitler, won't enforcing immigration laws at the workplace after the passage of comprehensive reform still remind them of Hitler?*** In both cases it will presumably be mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants who are caught in the net. Jacoby allows that the Swift raids "could be justified in the context of an immigration overhaul of the kind proposed by the president." But the reaction of Hispanic activists suggests they will continue to fight in the courts and legislatures to make sure that the enforcement mechanisms on which the immigration bill relies are as ineffective as possible.
None of this makes Bush's proposed amnesty-for-enforcement deal more credible. It makes it seem likelier that, as in 1986, the amnesty part will work but the enforcement part won't. Which may or may not be the real idea behind "comprehensive" reform.
P.S.: After the raids, the line of applicants at the Swift & Co. office in Colorado for the now-vacant jobs--jobs that, according to Jacoby, legal immigrants and Americans won't do-- stretched out the door.
P.P.S.: Kausfiles--Solution-Oriented! Why doesn't Congress simply pass a moderate increase in the unskilled legal immigrant quota from Mexico (and other Latin American countries) while an effective enforcement system**** is devised and tested. No amnesty, no guest-worker program. Then, once we know we have an enforcement scheme that actually works--and won't be crippled by lawsuits--Congress could revisit a "comprehensive" legislation that includes amnesty.
**--How come she gets to violate the Hitler Rule with impunity? No fair. ...
***--For example, according to the NYT, even the "comprehensive" legislation expected to be proposed in the Senate would deny amnesty to immigrants who "arrived after a certain date, perhaps 2004 ... ." But would it let the feds actually enforce the law against them? They'll be mostly Hispanics. It will look bad!
****--Including, I'd argue, the border fence Congress authorized last year. ... [Some links via The Corner] 12:59 P.M.
1) Has Obama grappled seriously and smartly with the big questions of the day; and
2) Has he, in the course of this grappling, told Dems something they don't want to hear, or demonstrated independence from Dem interest groups that enforce the party's line in unfortunate ways (e.g., teacher's unions impeding education reform, seniors unwilling to accept any Social Security cuts, populists who pretend bargaining-down drug prices will largely solve the problem of health-care costs, etc.).