IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve yet to comment on the recent immigration debate, though I have previously shared my thoughts on the topic at Thought Theater. Having recently spent some time ruminating on the relevant issues, along with todayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s reading of George WillÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s latest commentary, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m ready to take another swipe at the subject.
There seems to be a movement to characterize the tepid across the board voter polling as an indication that the new legislation is generally unacceptable…or in the extreme, as Minority Leader John Boehner described it after meeting with the president, it is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œa piece of shitÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?. While I can comprehend Will’s rationale, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m inclined to disagree with his subsequent conclusions.
In fact, I view the poll numbers and the lukewarm reactions to this pending legislation as an egg that wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t hatch because itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s been sat on for far too long by an impotent brood of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbantyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? roosters who have repeatedly placed partisan objectives ahead of pragmatic and prudent policy. What we are witnessing is simply the acknowledgment that reality has come home to roostÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦and it has been forever altered by the proverbial practice of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhead in the sandÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? hegemony and hypocrisy.
Let me attempt to explain what I mean. First, letÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s look at some of the arguments being advanced in George WillÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s op-ed piece.
Compromise is incessantly praised, and it has produced the proposed immigration legislation. But compromise is the mother of complexity, which, regarding immigration, virtually guarantees — as the public understands — weak enforcement and noncompliance.
In 1986, when there probably were 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants, Americans accepted an amnesty because they were promised that border control would promptly follow. Today the 12 million illegal immigrants, 60 percent of whom have been here five or more years, are as numerous as Pennsylvanians; 44 states have populations smaller than 12 million. Deporting the 12 million would require police resources and methods from which the nation would rightly flinch. So, why not leave bad enough alone?
Concentrate on border control and on workplace enforcement facilitated by a biometric identification card issued to immigrants who are or will arrive here legally. Treat the problem of the 12 million with benign neglect. Their children born here are American citizens; the parents of these children will pass away.
Were I living in the civil war era, I might conclude that The Reconstruction had commencedÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦though this time in the form of rewriting history to mask the motives that allowed the 1986 policy to morph into an illegal immigrant incubator. Ask the owner of any small business in operation during this period and they will gladly confirm that the process of worker verification had been given a virtual vasectomyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦rendering it harmless, helpless, and hopeless.
Enforcement of this measure, intended to turn off the magnet attracting illegals in the first place, was spotty at first and is now virtually nonexistent. Even when the law was passed, Congress pulled its punch by not requiring the development of a mechanism for employers to verify the legal status of new hires, forcing the system to fall back on a blizzard of easily forged paper documents.
And even under this flawed system, the INS was publicly slapped down when it did try to enforce the law. When the agency conducted raids during Georgia’s Vidalia onion harvest in 1998, thousands of illegal aliens ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? knowingly hired by the farmers ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? abandoned the fields to avoid arrest. By the end of the week, both of the state’s senators and three congressmen ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? Republicans and Democrats ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? had sent an outraged letter to Washington complaining that the INS “does not understand the needs of America’s farmers,” and that was the end of that.
So, the INS tried out a “kinder, gentler” means of enforcing the law, which fared no better. Rather than conduct raids on individual employers, Operation Vanguard in sought to identify illegal workers at all meatpacking plants in Nebraska through audits of personnel records. The INS then asked to interview those employees who appeared to be unauthorized ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? and the illegals ran off. The procedure was remarkably successful, and was meant to be repeated every two or three months until the plants were weaned from their dependence on illegal labor.
Local law-enforcement officials were very pleased with the results, but employers and politicians vociferously criticized the very idea of enforcing the immigration law. Gov. Mike Johanns organized a task force to oppose the operation; the meat packers and the ranchers hired former Gov. Ben Nelson to lobby on their behalf; and, in Washington, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) (coauthor, with Tom Daschle, of the newest amnesty bill, S.2010) made it his mission in life to pressure the Justice Department to stop. They succeeded, the operation was ended, and the INS veteran who thought it up in the first place is now enjoying early retirement.
The INS got the message and developed a new interior-enforcement policy that gave up on trying to actually reassert control over immigration and focused almost entirely on the important, but narrow, issues of criminal aliens and smugglers. As INS policy director Robert Bach told the New York Times in a 2000 story appropriately entitled “I.N.S. Is Looking the Other Way as Illegal Immigrants Fill Jobs”: “It is just the market at work, drawing people to jobs, and the INS has chosen to concentrate its actions on aliens who are a danger to the community.” The result is clear ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? the San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier this month that from 1992 to 2002, the number of companies fined for hiring illegal workers fell from 1,063 to 13. That’s thirteen. In the whole country.
So when Will states that the problem was ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œweak enforcement and noncomplianceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?, he is only offering a superficial view of the problem. The law was sufficientÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦but the will of the government (executed by elected officials)ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦tempered by the economic concerns of important constituent groups and the politicians who needed their votesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t exist for long, if at all.
What resulted was a confluence of competing interests that enabled the unbridled and unchecked flow of immigrants into the country. Republicans satisfied their corporate supporters and Democrats tallied the numbers of a rapidly expanding voting block. Keep in mind the relevant datesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦from 1986 to 1992 we had a Republican in the White House and from 1992 through 2000, we had a Democratic presidentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦all followed by the seven years of festering and fractional concerns that have plagued the Bush administrationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s tenure. So if it wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t solely Republican or Democratic malfeasance that defined these years, what was it? Perhaps politicians of all flavors were savoring the perceived spoils?