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January 26, 2007
Remember When Democrats Insisted On Employer Enforcement?

When conservatives finally moved to bolster border security and debated how to address the millions of illegal immigrants that took advantage of decades of open borders. Critics of tough measures complained that the government should focus its efforts against employers who took advantage of illegal aliens and helped drive down wages for Americans. However, when a Republican offered an amendment to the Senate minimum-wage bill that would address both concerns, the Democrats suddenly couldn't tolerate the thought of employer enforcement:

Senate Democrats quashed a proposal yesterday that would have dramatically increased civil fines on employers who hire illegal aliens.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, offered the amendment to the bill now being debated that would increase the federal minimum wage.

Ridding the economy of illegal aliens, he argued, would do far more to help low-income wage earners than simply raising the minimum wage. Not only do aliens displace U.S. citizens in the work force, he said, they also artificially suppress wages. ...

But Democratic leaders refused to let Mr. Sessions' alien amendment reach the Senate floor yesterday, and they accused him and other Republicans of offering amendments unrelated to the minimum-wage increase in order to stall passage of the bill.

Apparently the Democrats have an aversion to actually trying the options they offered when they were in the minority. Led by Ted Kennedy, they assaulted Sessions' amendment as a "distraction" to the issue of the minimum-wage hike, but it addresses the same concerns that the Democrats have raised in the wage hike debate. Illegal aliens depress wages by flooding the market with off-the-books labor. Forcing employers to hire only eligible workers corrects a market distortion that allows employers to pay less for the same amount of labor, eliminating employment options for legal US residents and citizens. It would also eliminate some of the incentive for border violators and allow enforcement activity to have more impact.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have apparently changed their minds since the election. They would prefer to impose a top-down government edict on wages rather than enforce existing law and disincentivize lawbreakers to allow the market for labor to naturally swing in favor of the workers. That approach would do what a minimum-wage hike does not: provide an increase in real buying power, rather than triggering an inflationary cycle that will once again make the increase in the floor wage irrelevant within five or six years.

In fact, the Sessions amendment doesn't replace the minimum-wage hike, but supplements it with the market corrective -- which should have been a no-brainer for Democrats hoping to sell their supposed bipartisanship. Instead, they showed themselves as hypocrites on immigration and posturers on the welfare of American workers.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 26, 2007 5:59 AM

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