Sunday, June 03, 2007

Immigration Reform and Employer Accountability

Now that the new Immigration Reform Bill has been on the table for a few weeks, the press is starting to report about the official positions of many special interest groups. This article from today's Washington Post is quite telling, and begs for an analysis.

Regular readers know that I am not a fan of increased border "security." Why? Over the last 30 years the U.S.-Mexico border has become increasingly guarded, and you can see what effects it has had on curtailing undocumented immigration. I think people who advocate for walls or a hermetically sealed frontera are hopelessly naive or delusional. It is physically impossible to effectively fence a 2000 mile border. Border enforcement is expensive and ineffective. Border security (especially calls for a wall) also highlight the U.S.'s xenophobic tendencies, which is not good.

However, I am an advocate of policing employer hiring practices because that is a border we can effectively police. Once employers learn that they will finally be accountable for breaking immigration laws, I believe the border issue will become irrelevant. As I've stated before, undocumented workers do not come to the U.S. to lounge around. They come to work. If they know that their chances of being hired after the get here are exceedingly unlikely, they will be more likely to either 1) stay home or 2) seek a legal means of working in the U.S. Thus, that long walk through the Arizona desert will not seem worth the risk if there is little or no chance of employment on the other end.

What of our fellow citizens in the business world? Certainly they want to work toward a solution here. Apparently not.

It seems that employers are already howling because
Among employers' top concerns is a provision imposing criminal liability for employers if their subcontractors hire illegal workers. The legislation would also increase civil penalties for employers caught hiring illegal workers.

The maximum criminal penalty for a pattern of hiring illegal workers would increase to $75,000 per illegal worker from $3,000.

Under the bill, a business might have to vet the employment files of its subcontractors, which lawyers said would be an onerous task.

Why would honest employers be worried increase criminal penalties and looking into the files of their subcontractors? That would be because the dirty secret of undocumented immigration is that subcontracting has been the preferred loophole of employers who really want to hire the undocumented but do not want to be implicated in the process. There are many problems with this immigration bill, but increasing employer sanctions is not among them. Unfortunately, business owners are a powerful lobby, and as in the past, it is likely that these increased sanctions will be whittled away until the amount to no more than a wrist slap.

I despise the anti-immigration folks who go after immigrants like they were the pariah of the U.S. Of course, the undocumented are, and always have been, easy targets. My hope is that those who oppose the undocumented will wake up and go after the real perpetrators here: the employers who thrive on undocumented labor. Despite my hopes, I doubt it will happen, however, because I suspect that employers themselves feed the fires of xenophobia, or at least allow them to smolder, that ultimately blame immigrants for a problem that they (employers) have perpetuated for decades.

It is very convenient to have people looking the other way when you benefit from breaking the law.


William said...

"Over the last 30 years the U.S.-Mexico border has become increasingly guarded, and you can see what effects it has had on curtailing undocumented immigration."

Nationally, the Border Patrol budget grew from around $362 million in 1993 to $3.5 billion for the 2008 Budget. That is only a 10-fold increase over fifteen years. For reasons you already understand, there has never been a political will to seal our southern border.
If you agree that illegal immigration is bad, why would you have a problem with a wall. A wall would have initial costs, but then could be managed I'm guessing for the same budget if not less. It's easier to guard a wall then guard 2000 miles of open terrain.

In the same way you point out the hypocrisy of "honest" employers complaining about having to check sub-contractor employee eligibility, I'm calling you out on your hypocrisy concerning a "Southern Wall" You have other reasons for not wanting a wall that you have not revealed. You are being intellectually dishonest. Careful. Try to be more objective concerning your subject matter.

Union Electrician
Miami, FL

Deb said...

I am not being intellectually dishonest. As I stated in the post, I've blogged on my reasons for opposing the wall in detail, including, as I mention here, that it will be expensive, it is unsustainable, and it will not be effective. Going after employers who break the law, however, will be.

As for "hypocrisy," I have no idea what in the world you're referring to here. I've been consistent with my positions from the time I started this blog, and I have no ulterior motives. I oppose anti-immigrant movements and other expressions of xenophobia, and the wall proposal is at the top of my list.