The New York Times has a growing reputation as a lagging indicator. Almost six months after the Arizona Republic noticed that a series of tough anti-illegal-immigration state laws had provided an incentive for noticeable attrition by illegal aliens, the Paper of Record has finally reported on the phenomenon. It’s like the surge — only on domestic policy, and it comes at an odd time:
The signs of flight among Latino immigrants here are multiple: Families moving out of apartment complexes, schools reporting enrollment drops, business owners complaining about fewer clients.
While it is too early to know for certain, a consensus is developing among economists, business people and immigration groups that the weakening economy coupled with recent curbs on illegal immigration are steering Hispanic immigrants out of the state.
The Arizona economy, heavily dependent on growth and a Latino work force, has been slowing for months. Meanwhile, the state has enacted one of the country’s toughest laws to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, and the county sheriff here in Phoenix has been enforcing federal immigration laws by rounding up people living here illegally.
Arizona passed their laws three years ago, but had some obstacles in the courts in implementing them. Now that they have begun enforcement efforts, the results seem clear: enforcement works. They have taken away one of the magnets of illegal immigration, employment, and undocumented workers have found themselves with little reason to remain in the US.
Of course, this being the New York Times, the story has to include how enforcing laws creates pain and hardship. The story focuses on a legal immigrant who has lived in the US for 24 years but who may move to Mexico — because his wife is here illegally. He has no family in Mexico, so he is at loose ends. No one apparently bothered to ask why he didn’t have his wife straighten out her legal status years ago so the problem would have been resolved by now.
Another story gets a strange mention:
Elizabeth Leon, a legal immigrant and day care worker, said the families of two of her charges abruptly left, forcing the state to take custody of the children.
They abandoned their children on the way out of the US? This is supposed to make us sympathetic?
All of this serves as backdrop to the effort yesterday by Democrats to restart the immigration debate in the House. Once again, they want to provide temporary visas to any illegal immigrant that can prove they have a job. “Temporary” in this case means five years, but even that is secondary to the de facto legalization that will take place in the issuance of the visa. It will once again instigate a flood of illegal immigration across the still-unsecured southern border, prompting millions more to apply for the “temporary” visas and legalize their status in the US.
This probably has Democrats thinking they can embarrass John McCain, but it really just provides him an opportunity to shore up some conservative support by opposing it. McCain says he now will do nothing towards any legalization until the border is secured. If he opposes this new effort at amnesty by the Democrats, it will give him a significant argument towards showing he learned his lesson on immigration last year.
Oklahoma passed one of the toughest laws on immigration enforcement in the nation, arguable tougher than an Arizona bill that has convinced illegal aliens to leave the state. Oklahoma’s “1804” has had the same dramatic impact as its employment enforcement provisions have yet to take effect. Thousands of people have simply left their jobs, leaving some business owners struggling to adjust:
Autumn had arrived in eastern Oklahoma, and workers at the sprawling Greenleaf Nursery were prepping for deadly frosts. They needed to ship plants, erect greenhouses and bunch trees together to protect them against the cold.
But in late October, about 40 employees disappeared from the 600-acre nursery about an hour’s drive from Tulsa. “Some went to Texas, some went to Arkansas,” nursery President Randy Davis says. “They just left.”
Why did the workers, all immigrants, flee? “Those states don’t have 1804,” Davis says.
In a matter of weeks, “1804” has become part of the Sooner State’s lexicon. It refers to House Bill 1804, the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, arguably the nation’s toughest state law targeting illegal immigrants.
The bill did what the legislature wanted even before the deadlines it imposed. Tens of thousands of people have left Oklahoma, perhaps as many as 25,000 from Tulsa alone. School registration has significantly declined, which constitutes part of the cost savings Oklahoma planned to reap from 1804. No one knows whether they have gone back to their home countries or simply moved to another state, but the presumption is that they have done both.
However, the economic impact has been mixed. The state may be saving some costs in education, health care, and law enforcement, but agriculture and construction businesses have been hard hit by the labor shortage. Oklahoma had almost full employment before 1804, so the seasonal work will be hard to fill when everyone already has full-year employment. Sales are off at retail stores, and the housing market will suffer another hit in a year that already portends dark days for residential real estate.
In order to make up for the labor shortage, these industries will have to raise wages, and therefore prices. Taxpayers may save some money and be able to absorb the inflation, but only if Oklahoma cuts taxes and spending to return the savings to the taxpayers themselves. Otherwise, it’s going to get pricey in Oklahoma. One Republican legislator who opposed 1804 says it will be the worst economic event to hit the state since the Dust Bowl, while another says it will eventually show that the net economic impact of illegal immigration to be negative.
The legislature already wants to follow up 1804 with even tougher legislation. This, however, should concern even staunch conservatives. Oklahoma plans a confiscation scheme in which the state takes away property, including real estate, for those who violate the law. We’ve already seen abuses in confiscation penalties on a federal level, which usually precede a conviction.
At least this shows that proper enforcement of employer sanctions might be enough to resolve most of the issues with illegal immigration, and the more onerous proposals may not be needed. It also shows how difficult the transition could be for the entire nation as the process of purging illegal immigrants from our economy slowly proceeds.
While Congress tried to offer more and more legislation for immigration reform, a number of people wondered why the government didn’t try harder to enforce the laws already on the books. Many suggested that employer enforcement would remove the incentives for illegal immigration and illegals would just return home. Reuters now reports that those predictions have proven accurate already (via Power Line):
The couple are among a growing number of illegal immigrants across the United States who are starting to pack their bags and move on as a crackdown on undocumented immigrants widens and the U.S. economy slows, turning a traditional Christmas trek home into a one-way trip. …
The toughening environment has been coupled with a turndown in the U.S. economy, which has tipped the balance toward self deportation for many illegal immigrants left struggling to find work.
Remember the concern over anchor babies, those children born in the US who have American citizenship despite the illegal status of their parents? It turns out that no one wants to split families. The Mexican government reports a “spike” in requests for Mexican citizenship for children born in the US, so that they can attend Mexican schools instead. Requests to bring household items duty-free across the border have also increased, indicating that those returning have little desire to cross back into the US.
As it turns out, the declining dollar has provided even more incentive for the illegals to self-deport. The value of the money they sent back home has dropped, and combined with the perceived economic stagnation here in the US and the much tougher enforcement environment, the risk outweighs the potential gain. The economy grew at an annual rate of 4.9% in the last quarter, but perceptions in this case is reality.
Some have just decided to move elsewhere in the US from hostile states like Arizona. Reuters suggests that some may even come to Minnesota. If they come this week, they won’t stay long; we’re already having the coldest winter in at least 10 years. They may try California instead, just in time to see government go bankrupt and precipitate another push to shut illegals out from public services.
Tough enforcement of existing law can solve much of the problem; as long as we secure the border, we can then focus on a much smaller problem.
Congress has apparently misinterpreted the call to shrink the federal government. While our Representatives and Senators have included over 9,000 earmarks in the omnibus spending bill under consideration today, and while they continue to add more and more federal spending, they have shrunk the border fence passed by the 109th Congress last year. It removes the requirements for specific construction and location, leaving the project in limbo (via Michelle Malkin and Memeorandum):
Congress last night passed a giant new spending bill that undermines current plans for a U.S.-Mexico border fence, allowing the Homeland Security Department to build a single-tier barrier rather than the two-tier version that has worked in California.
The spending bill, written by Democrats and passed 253-154 with mostly their votes, surrenders to President Bush’s budget demands, meeting his spending limit with a $515 billion bill to fund most of the federal government and setting up votes to pay for the Iraq war. But Democrats reached his goal in part by slashing his defense and foreign-aid priorities to pay for added domestic spending.
The concessions promise to end a months-long budget standoff before Congress adjourns for the year and takes a Christmas break scheduled to start by Friday. In a rare two-step maneuver, the House first voted 253-154 to approve the bill to fund most of the civilian Cabinet agencies, and then voted 206-201 to add about $30 billion for Afghanistan war-spending to the measure. …
The 2006 Secure Fence Act specifically called for “two layers of reinforced fencing” and listed five specific sections of border where it should be installed. The new spending bill removes the two-tier requirement and the list of locations.
This mostly came from the Democrats, although Kay Bailey Hutchison also contributed. She responded to landowners in Texas who resent the installation of the fence as an intrusion on their land. Her spokesperson also insinuated that Hutchison knows better than Duncan Hunter as to what will secure a Texas border, even though Hunter has shown how effective the double-barrier fence has been in San Diego.
Mostly, though, robbing the border fence allows the Democrats to pay back the White House for playing hardball on the budget. They resented his scolding over the budget-busting proposal the Democrats prepared earlier this month, and House Appropriations chair David Obey threatened to defund the administration’s priorities — as well as all of the earmarks. When Republican leadership mostly called his bluff (mostly) on the latter, Obey instead went after the fence.
It may make Democrats feel better, but they just handed the Republicans a very large bat for the 2008 Congressional elections. Polls have repeatedly shown that the electorate overwhelmingly wants the southern border secured. By deliberately undermining that process, the Democrats put a number of the seats they won in 2006 in primarily center-right districts at further risk. People were frustrated enough when all the 109th could do on immigration was pass that fence bill — and they’re not likely to respond well when the 110th’s only action is to reverse course.
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has decided to withdraw his plan to offer drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. The decision comes too late for both his approval ratings and Hillary Clinton, who both defended and distanced herself from the plan within a two-minute span during the last Democratic presidential debate:
Gov. Eliot Spitzer is abandoning his plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, saying that opposition is just too overwhelming to move forward with such a policy.
The governor, who is to announce the move formally on Wednesday, said in an interview Tuesday night that he did not reach the decision easily.
“You have perhaps seen me struggle with it because I thought we had a principled decision, and it’s not necessarily easy to back away from trying to move a debate forward,” he said.
But he came to believe the proposal would ultimately be blocked, he said, either by legal challenges, a vote by the Legislature to deny financing for the Department of Motor Vehicles or a refusal by upstate county clerks to carry it out.
“I am not willing to fight to the bitter end on something that will not ultimately be implemented,” the governor said, “and we also have an enormous agenda on other issues of great importance to New York State that was being stymied by the constant and almost singular focus on this issue.”
The issue has not received singular focus. New Yorkers have still debated Spitzer’s staff’s use of the state police to target political opponents. Since his election last November, Spitzer has provided his constituents with plenty of debating points.
It didn’t help that Spitzer went off half-cocked on this proposal from the beginning. When he first announced his plan to issue licenses to illegal aliens, he hadn’t bothered to consult with legislators from his party or even his DMV. When the state erupted with anger about diluting the value of their primary identification document, Spitzer abruptly modified his proposal to create three classes of license — multiplying the costs of management and complicating enforcement. Two weeks later, he has to admit defeat.
Of course, Hillary Clinton has already gone on record supporting this proposal. Spitzer’s retreat leaves her all alone on the front line of this battle. Spitzer tried to offer a last, desperate assist to Hillary by claiming that the debate had not been based on “thoughtful discourse”, but in fact Chris Dodd had asked the question that neither Hillary nor Spitzer could answer in anything other than sound bites. If driving is a privilege, then why give licenses to people in the country illegally? Why give any government ID to people who do not legally belong in the US?
Neither Spitzer nor Hillary have any “thoughtful discourse” to explain that. No one has a right to drive; laws in every state make that perfectly clear. It’s a privilege that one earns by passing a test, and maintains by obeying the laws and not being a menace to other drivers. People who have broken the law too often have the privilege withdrawn, such as with chronic DUI cases. They might still drive, but they don’t have a license. Does the fact that they still drive — the argument used by both Spitzer and Hillary — mean the state should issue them licenses anyway? Of course not!
Spitzer could not bring himself to admit that he bombed, both substantively and procedurally, with his three-tier license plan. Hillary will almost assuredly issue the same kind of “You don’t understand my genius” post-mortem on this plan. Neither will recover what they have lost in this debate as long as they refuse to acknowledge their basic error in supporting a plan to provide government documents to illegal immigrants.
A new proposal on border security and immigration control via employer sanctions has begun to make the rounds on Capitol Hill. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Heath Shuler (D-NC) have sponsored the SAVE Act, which would mandate operational control of the border and secure ID verification at employment as a strategy to curtail illegal immigration. They have won sponsors as diverse as Duncan Hunter and John Murtha, and the pair hopes to gain the attention of House leadership:
Two ardent proponents of border security are teaming up to introduce a bipartisan bill aimed at curtailing illegal immigration through employer sanctions.
Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who were both elected after strongly criticizing President Bush’s approach to immigration reform, are unveiling a bill Tuesday that has already attracted the support of dozens of members. …
The Secure America with Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act focuses on three areas: employment enforcement, interior enforcement and increased border security.
One of the more controversial provisions would make the so-called E-Verify program mandatory, a move that raises major concerns with industry officials.
Proponents of the E-Verify program say it allows employers an inexpensive way to ensure they are hiring legally documented workers. They maintain that the program has been successful, but is only being used by a small percentage of employers.
The mandate for e-Verify use will create some hurdles on the Republican side of the House. Business lobbyists have fought the requirement for employers to check each new hire against the Social Security database, claiming higher costs and inaccurate results. Immigration-control advocates point out that current methods of verification also have mandates (the I-9 requirement), and are also prone to error, more so than e-Verify.
SAVE does more than issue employer mandates. It adds another 8,000 Border Patrol agents, and it expands the investigative power of the ICE. SAVE would also mitigate data-sharing obstacles between the DHS, IRS, and the Social Security Administration. Those features may generate opposition not just from business interests but also from civil libertarians, depending on the nature and use of the data-sharing envisioned by SAVE’s creators.
The latest bipartisan proposal is also noteworthy for what it does not include. SAVE says nothing about guest worker programs or normalization. It also doesn’t propose any changes to the legal immigration process to make it easier for legal immigrants to enter the country. SAVE moves away from the comprehensive approach to immigration reform by addressing the critical issues first, and leaving the other components of comprehensive reform for another debate at another time.
Bilbray and Shuler have the right idea. Instead of ramming this through Congress without debate or study as the Senate attempted earlier this year, the House can prove itself the more contemplative body on this topic with a responsible legislative process. That will give Bilbray, Shuler, and their co-sponsors an opportunity to refine the bill and make its case to their colleagues and an American public that has waited for six years after 9/11 for Congress to take national security a little more seriously.
Fred Thompson has jumped into the DREAM Act debate occuring as I write in the US Senate. Thompson, who just published his plan for immigration reform this week, calls the Dick Durbin-sponsored act a “nightmare” that will constitute a back-door amnesty. He urges its defeat:
After several false starts Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) continues to push the DREAM Act. What is the DREAM Act? A nightmare.
The act would allow any illegal immigrant who entered the country before the age of 16 to receive conditional residency, which could then be converted to a non-conditional residency. These illegal immigrants can apply for this form of amnesty so long as they are under 30 and they weren’t older than 16 when they came to the country. And, of course, there is no way of proving when they illegally entered our country. After all, they are undocumented. Aliens would qualify even if they received and ignored a removal order if that order was received before they were 16.
Essentially, the DREAM Act puts some illegal aliens in a better position for residency than legal aliens who have played by the rules.
In addition to this stealth amnesty, the DREAM Act, would repeal a portion of the 1996 federal immigration law that prohibits any state from offering in-state college tuition rates to illegal aliens unless the state also offers in-state tuition to all U.S. citizens. Thus, if the DREAM Act passes, any state could offer such a break to qualifying illegal aliens.
The Senate debate essentially is covering the same ground. Jeff Sessions, who opposed the comprehensive immigration reform proposed earlier this year, has just objected to granting amnesty to 1.3 million people as a consequence of the DREAM Act. Arlen Spector, who supported the reform bill this summer, objected to offering this piece of comprehensive reform outside of a bill that would also include enforcement and visa reform. Jim DeMint has just made essentially the same argument.
Dick Durbin, on the other hand, says “we’re talking about children!” He’s avoiding the issue that created the objections in the first place. The DREAM Act uses children as a means to grant amnesty to the entire families involved. He’s holding up poster-sized pictures of college students. He tells the Senate that DREAM Act opponents will bear “the mark of Cain” for opposing educational subsidies for the children of illegal aliens that moves them ahead of legal immigrants and US citizens.
“The mark of Cain”? He thinks that opponents of DREAM Act are murderers? That’s demagoguery at its worst.
UPDATE: King Banaian can’t believe that students at his school haven’t figured out that the DREAM Act means higher tuition for themselves. I think more of them need to take his economics classes.
UPDATE II, 11:50 AM CT: The measure has failed to achieve cloture, as a handful of Democrats join most of the Republicans in voting against the DREAM Act. Durbin fell short of the votes needed to proceed to a floor vote. Spector cast the 41st vote against cloture.
UPDATE III: Final vote is 52-44 for cloture, falling eight votes short.
The Department of Homeland Security has received loud criticism from border-security advocates for its snail’s pace at building the wall on the southern border authorized in 2006 by Congress. Now it faces another round of criticism for the building materials the DHS bought for its construction. Instead of American steel for the reinforced border fencing, DHS imported it from China:
House members allied with the domestic steel industry blasted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday for building a fence on the Mexican border with Chinese steel.
“By allowing the use of Chinese pipe [a type of steel], DHS is allowing the U.S. taxpayer to subsidize Chinese production at the expense of the American workers,” Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) said at a press conference. “This is completely unacceptable.”
“This is outrageous, it’s offensive and it’s unacceptable,” charged Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.).
English displayed photos of a portion of the border fence from San Luis, Ariz., that shows pipes marked “China” holding the border fence in place. He said DHS’s Office of Congressional Affairs had indicated it had waived the so-called Buy American rules in order to use the Chinese pipe and tube. The rules normally require the use of U.S. steel in such projects.
How dumb can DHS be? This is a high-profile project with politicians crawling all over it. Duncan Hunter has practically set up his presidential campaign there, and besides the border, which issue has he highlighted in his campaign? Unfair trade with China. Did they think that this would simply go unnoticed?
Hunter didn’t remain quiet after this came out. He noted that the DHS had $800 million in cash, and didn’t have to go bargain-hunting for steel. Fortunately, Hunter noted, the DHS has only build five miles of the barrier in a year, so they have plenty of time to get refunds and start buying American. At that rate, American steelworkers will have 160 years of work supplying DHS on this project!
Normally, I prefer a free-market approach and think the government should get the best deal, just like any other consumer. However, if we’re going to build a border barrier, having a “Made in China” label on it sends a curious message. National-security efforts should involve Americans to the greatest degree possible, and the DHS should have bought American in this case.
It’s hard to imagine what Judge Charles R. Breyer had in mind when he issued a ruling that prevents the government from detecting identity fraud, but clearly it wasn’t the law or the interests of the American community. The federal judge in Northern California issued an injunction against the issuance of “no-match” letters that inform employers of potential fraudulent employees, halting enforcement of employer sanctions for hiring illegal workers:
A federal judge barred the Bush administration today from launching a planned crackdown on U.S. firms that hire illegal immigrants, warning of the plan’s potentially “staggering” impact on law-abiding workers and companies.
Issuing a firm rebuke of the White House, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer of San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction against the government’s plan to pressure employers to fire up to 8.7 million workers with suspect Social Security numbers starting this fall. …
Breyer said the plaintiffs, an unusual coalition that included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the American Civil Liberties Union, had raised such serious questions about the plan to mail Social Security “no-match” letters to 140,000 U.S. employers that it should be blocked from proceeding.
“There can be no doubt that the effects of the rule’s implementation will be severe,” Breyer wrote, resulting in “irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.”
The government letters were intended to warn employers that they must resolve questions about their employees’ identities or fire them within 90 days. If they did not, employers could face “stiff penalties,” including fines and even criminal prosecutions for violating a federal law that bars knowingly employing illegal workers, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in announcing the plan Aug. 10.
So let’s get this straight. Employers have a requirement to get Social Security information so that they can verify employment eligibility. When they attempt to verify the employee and the Social Security administration determines that the number is invalid, what is the government going to do? Ignore it, even though it’s really identity fraud?
If the government insists on setting up SSNs as employment requirements, then the government has to protect the integrity of their use. If someone steals my SSN in order to defraud an employer, they will eventually use it to establish credit and damage my economic standing. At the least, it renders the entire system suspect. The government has a legal obligation to protect people that they force into this database.
Interestingly, Breyer based his ruling at least in part on the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, which forbids agency enforcement of law without careful consideration of the cost to small businesses. That act makes good sense when discussing issues that don’t intrude on national sovereignty, national security, and fraud. The requirement for employers to provide reverification within 90 days of finding out that an employee either made a mistake or lied about their SSN does not seem overly burdensome, and the nation and its people have what should be an overwhelming interest in border enforcement and protection against identity theft. Most people would understand this, but apparently not Breyer nor the Chamber of Commerce, which joined in the challenge to the process.
I’d expect the appellate court to overrule this, but we’re talking about the 9th Circuit. We’ll have to wait for this to go to the Supreme Court for any reversal.
In a war on terror where our enemies seek to infiltrate their way into our nation, why has Congress and the Bush administration failed to secure the border? The 9/11 Commission pointed out the problem three years ago, and despite two decades of promises, we have done little to resolve it. Texas’s homeland-security chief confirmed yesterday that the lax controls have allowed terrorists to enter through the southern border (via The Corner):
Texas’ top homeland security official said Wednesday that terrorists with ties to Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaida have been arrested crossing the Texas border with Mexico in recent years.
“Has there ever been anyone linked to terrorism arrested?” Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw said in a speech to the North Texas Crime Commission. “Yes, there was.”
His remarks appear to be among the most specific on the topic of terrorism arrests along the Texas-Mexico border. Local and elected officials have alluded to this happening but have been short on details.
Reasonable men and women can disagree on what to do with the illegal aliens already here in the country. Most agree, though, that our borders and visa-management system remain stuck in a 9/10 mentality — and that we have allowed ourselves to remain unecessarily vulnerable to our enemies in the war on terror. We have known of this vulnerability for far too long, and our political class and both parties have failed the nation in resolving it.
And one of these days, we will pay a terrible price for it.
Where’s the fence? Where is the visa-management system that was due over two years ago? Where are Congress and the White House, Democrats and Republicans? Who is minding the store?