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The Immigration Fix
by Timothy J. Noonan
Prosecute illegal employers
The proposed anti-immigration law in Arizona won’t solve the problem it targets. But there is a viable solution.
Citizens beset with swarms of illegal aliens will be dissatisfied and immigrants will be oppressed until the rules of the game change. Republicans—yes, with Democratic help—have been funneling cheap, unprotected-by-law labor from Mexico to agribusiness and elsewhere for generations. Then each makes political hay out of blaming the other side.
Here’s how things could rapidly evolve toward justice for all parties.
Drop this law now to save the expense of its inevitable overturning on Constitutional grounds. Only the federal government can enforce immigration law.
Pass a law increasing the fine for employing an illegal to equal the cost of one year’s incarceration. Add a six- to 12-month jail term to the fine.
Stay with me here.
The currently proposed law orders police to investigate every instance of reasonable suspicion of illegal status. They are to investigate by demanding proof of legal presence in the US. Unfortunately, not all of the undocumented aliens are illegal or undesirable. There are intervals in the legal visa and naturalization processes when the alien is required to hand over his or her documents for processing for sometimes weeks or even months at a time. The currently proposed Arizona law would make anyone quite legally in this status into a felon for no more than existing on public or private property in that state. Plainly absurd. Plainly untenable.
The law that is needed in place of this one should order the police to investigate every single case where there is reasonable suspicion that illegal employment is happening. Investigate the employer. Arrest when warranted.
Convict, imprison, repeat. No constitutional issues.
Could business assets be attached via RICO? I don’t know. It could help pay for enforcement, if so.
Now, every citizen who cares about this issue on either compassionate or economic grounds should report every instance of illegal employment they know of. And they should remain on the lookout.
How could this be compassionate?
With some illegal employers going to jail and the rest under threat of jail or having their illegal labor business model blown up, the employers will demand a new set of rules. The legislature will respond to them whereas it failed to act decisively and effectively in the past.
Arizona can’t do without the workers. A way will be found. And whoever does end up working will have all the usual legal protections instead of none of them. Amnesty? Path to citizenship? Neither of the above? I don’t know but we don’t need to know in advance if we can create the situation in which the best compromise must be arrived at, and expeditiously.
After a trying several months of transition for both immigrants and employers there could be a whole new landscape not structurally fraught with injustice.
Police, not having to fight an impossible battle against waves of illegals (how many will come during the interval when there are virtually zero jobs available to them?) will be able to take all their new funding and techware and focus it on the drug runners and violent criminals.
Desperate for labor, Arizona will work with other border states and Washington to ensure workable new federal immigration rules of some sort. They will have no option to procrastinate.
Similar legislative and enforcement efforts in surrounding states could blossom quickly if Step One precipitated an interstate diaspora of the undocumented to other states.
If only one political party gets to work on this, it goes more slowly, but that party gets all the credit, and votes, that accrue to the solvers of this problem.
If the parties cooperate then they both score huge points against anti-incumbency fervor.
Someone has to have the guts to attack this problem at its source, which we have all known but have mostly been ignoring like the elephant in the corner. I propose sainthood for the first policeman to walk up to the plantation house and put Mr. Agribusiness in handcuffs—after due investigation—for his farm full of illegal labor. Mr. Agribusiness will howl to the RNC, but since the RNC is watching the rapidly growing Hispanic vote calcify in bright blue, they might forego a few hundred thousand in donations in return for a shot at a several hundred thousand votes this year and millions in years to come.
Also, produce prices will rise several cents. Comparable effects on other heavily affected industries, all centered in the states beset with the present problem and rippling out to varying degrees. But these effects will happen across the board nationally. No one need be put at a competitive disadvantage.
All farms will require legal labor, unlike today, when farms which obey the law are at a market disadvantage. All constructions firms, not just the ones with a conscience, will have to pay legal wages, as will everyone seeking domestic help. In short, everyone who has felt compelled to hire illegals because their competition did will now be free to follow the dictates of a right conscience. Free to and required to.
Exisiting and potential immigrants win from new, fair rules, and fair pay for those who are allowed to stay or enter. Agricultural employers can still have a reliable source of field labor, albeit it at minimum wage instead of below. The working person wins from removed downward pressure on wages and from renewal of the old pattern of Mexican agricultural labor entering and leaving the US seasonally rather than sticking around all year scrounging for other work and accessing benefits because they fear the hardened border too much to ever go home.
Taxpayers win in several ways.
Consider the tax savings of not fighting the same anti-immigration battle in the desert, and losing, day after day, year after year. Consider the taxes from all of the new, declared income jobs which are now out of reach of the tax man. Consider the reduction of the load on social services when seasonal workers go home to Mexico each year after the season.
All citizens win when there are no longer swarms of the undocumented for violent criminals to disappear into. As well, police will be targeting violent criminals and drug runners without the overwhelming distraction of the current hunt for illegals.
Prosecute illegal employers now. Leave the Constitution alone.
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