Migrants Self-Deporting In Arizona

Yesterday’s Arizona Republic reported on an interesting phenomenon taking place as a new workplace identification law approaches implementation. Those workers with no documentation — in other words, illegal aliens — have begun to sell off their property and leave the state:

Undocumented immigrants are starting to leave Arizona because of the new employer-sanctions law.
The state’s strong economy has been a magnet for illegal immigrants for years. But a growing number are pulling up stakes out of fear they will be jobless come Jan. 1, when the law takes effect. The departures are drawing cheers from immigration hard-liners and alarm from business owners already seeing a drop in sales.
It’s impossible to count how many undocumented immigrants have fled because of the new law. But based on interviews with undocumented immigrants, immigrant advocates, community leaders and real-estate agents, at least several hundred have left since Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the bill on July 2. There are an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona.
Some are moving to other states, where they think they will have an easier time getting jobs. Others are returning to Mexico, selling their effects and putting their houses on the market.
The number departing is expected to mushroom as the Jan. 1 deadline draws closer. After that, the law will require employers to verify the employment eligibility of their workers through a federal database.

The immigration hard-liners appear to have proven one of their main arguments. Illegal immigrants who face a loss of employment due to strict employer sanctions will move elsewhere, and rather quickly. One talk-radio host that caters to what the Republic calls “undocumented immigrants” estimates that the departure rate has already hit 100 per day. It will likely increase until most of them depart before the end of the year, when their jobs will disappear.
Arizona passed employer sanctions with a particular bite. Rather than set up an escalating series of fines, which has been the federal approach, the state opted to put employers out of business. A first offense gets a ten-day suspension of the firm’s business license, which would close the doors during that period. A subsequent offense revokes the business license permanently. Needless to say, that has provided an incentive to business owners to start checking identities through the federal database and terminating anyone who doesn’t clear the system.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce heads a coalition that wants the law repealed based on a Constitutional challenge, but it’s hard to see how they can succeed. The state can impose sanctions on business licenses it issues, and it can insist that employers check for worker eligibility. The real issue for the ACC is labor shortages. The state currently has an unemployment rate of 3.7%, statistically full employment. Arizona employers will have to raise wages to compete for workers, which will cost consumers more but allow for more money in the market as well. It also might prompt business to push for automation where possible, using technology to fill the gaps.
However, the state does have around 9% of its workforce comprised by illegals. They rent houses and apartments, shop for food, and consume just like anyone else does in Arizona. When they disappear, the state will undoubtedly suffer a hit to the economy, especially in housing, which could depress real-estate values in some areas. Some of the immigrants own houses, and they have to sell them fast, which has glutted the resale market in the state. Secondary markets like furniture and home improvement have slowed considerably in Arizona, too.
Proponents of federalism often refer to states as laboratories for political experiments. Arizona’s efforts on employer sanctions will prove an interesting test case for employer-based immigration sanctions.

Maybe The Bill Had Something To Do With It

The Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted a study to determine why the immigration-reform bill died on the floor of the Senate — and readers can guess who gets the credit and the blame. Their exhaustive study, apparently completed and published in six weeks, claims that conservative talk radio set off a frenzied mob by using the word “amnesty”:

Opposition from key talk radio and cable TV hosts helped kill the immigration bill in Congress, a study out today concludes.
“What listeners of the conservative talk radio media were hearing, in large part, was that the legislation itself was little more than an ‘amnesty bill’ for illegal immigrants, a phrase loaded with political baggage,” it says.
The study by the nonpartisan Project for Excellence in Journalism quantifies what White House and Capitol Hill phone lines and e-mail inboxes already indicated: Talk radio focused on the immigration debate more intensely than the mainstream media did from April to June.
Conservative hosts touched off a brushfire in the Republican base that President Bush and other party leaders were helpless to contain.

The study concluded that talk-radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage devoted 16% of their second-quarter airtime to immigration. Liberal talk-show hosts only devoted 5% to the topic. Using this calculation, the study concludes that the talk-radio shows overpowered liberals who supported the bill, and therefore foiled passage of the bill.
Well, maybe. However, this sounds like the study’s authors confuse correlation with causation. They don’t study how all of this chatter actually affected the Senate vote. We assume it did — on that much we can agree — but that’s all this study does as well. No one studied the use of the word “amnesty”, either. Did that really affect listener comprehension of the bill, and was it fair or unfair to use it when describing the bill?
The authors also fail to consider that the bill was just a poorly-written piece of legislation. Its sponsors and Harry Reid did whatever they could to jam it down the Senate’s throat quickly enough to avoid scrutiny and to keep any amendments that could actually fix its myriad issues from succeeding. That backroom process angered many voters on its own, as well as a good percentage of the Senators who had to vote on it. Talk radio didn’t have much to do with any of that.
Liberals weren’t thrilled with this bill, either. People on both sides of the divide opposed it, although the most passionate were the conservatives. And some center-right talk-show hosts didn’t oppose the bill, at least not outright, Hugh Hewitt among them. Some of the talk-show hosts wanted to work in some amendments that would make the bill palatable.
Why didn’t they catch that? Their sample only included two conservative talk shows per day. They only tracked Rush Limbaugh every day, and then alternated between Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. For liberal talk radio, their sample was even smaller; they sampled one show per day, alternating between Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes. The rest of their radio study consisted of ABC’s headline service and NPR.
This study reminds me of CBS polling. It fails at the sample, and then draws a lot of unsupported conclusions.

Elvira Arellano Deported

The government acted quickly to deport illegal alien-cum-immigration activist Elvira Arellano after her arrest yesterday. Within hours of her capture, after years of defying the order for her second deportation, American officials deported her to Tijuana. Supporters expressed outrage over her quick ejection:

Elvira Arellano was arrested Sunday afternoon outside Our Lady Queen of Angels church in Los Angeles. She was deported several hours later, said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, where Arellano had taken refuge.
“She has been deported. She is free and in Tijuana,” said Coleman, who said he spoke to her on the phone. “She is in good spirits. She is ready to continue the struggle against the separation of families from the other side of the border.” …
Arellano, 32, became a symbol of the struggles of illegal immigrant parents when she took refuge in the church to avoid being separated from her 8-year-old son Saul, who was born in the U.S. and is thus a citizen.

Arellano’s odyssey began with her illegal entry into the US in 1997. Sho got deported for illegal entry, but then came back across the border illegally again and wound up working at Chicago’s O’Hare International, cleaning planes. Unfortunately for Arellano, when she got the job, she committed Social Security fraud and got caught in 2002.
Arellano got prosecuted for her second illegal entry, but the immigration service did not detain her. Instead, Arellano got to remain free under the previous catch-and-release program. She was ordered to report back to authorities last summer, but instead took refuge in a Chicago church and refused to come out.
So did the government storm the church in an Elian Gonzalez-style raid, facing her down with automatic rifles, and drag her out of the place of worship? Not exactly. Arellano decided to drive to Los Angeles to take part in a planned protest against immigration policy. Authorities found out about it and arrested the fugitive, and immediately executed the deportation order, as required by law.
Naturally, to the protestors, this was the fault of the government. “How dare they arrest this woman?” one asked, apparently astonished that law enforcement actually takes their jobs seriously. I’d say the question should be more along the lines of why it took so long to arrest her. No one questions her illegal entry; no one questions her commission of Social Security fraud. Apparently the activists simply want the government to ignore the law as much as they do.
Well, one can hardly blame them. For years, the government did exactly that. However, when Arellano made it as obvious as she did, they had to expect some kind of reaction. Perhaps this means that the government has decided to take immigration enforcement a little more seriously, but we’ll have to see whether that just applies to those who publicly thumb their noses at ICE or whether it applies to everyone who breaks the law.

The Raid Hotline In Southern California

Illegal immigrants are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it any more. Claiming that the government “terrorizes” illegal by arresting them, activists have set up a hotline in my old stomping grounds of Orange County, California to tip off illegals when and where the ICE will conduct raids on employers (h/t CQ reader Stoo):

Responding to a refusal by city leaders to declare the city a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, more than a dozen people gathered outside City Hall on Monday night to denounce recent immigration raids, accusing federal officials of “terrorizing” immigrant communities and breaking up families.
A coalition of local immigrant rights groups, including the Orange County Alliance for Immigrants Rights and the Front Against the Raids, announced a planned program to create a hot line that will notify people where and when immigration raids will take place. The program would also coordinate a support system for the families of deportee targets.
“We want to have a more organized effort to counter these attacks,” said Jaime Conteras, a 20-year-old Filipino immigrant who now lives in Santa Ana. “We cannot let people trample on our rights.”
During five days of raids in June, 175 people in Orange County were arrested on suspected immigration violations. The raids arrested 27 suspected criminals, including a man wanted for murder and a convicted child molester. Santa Ana was one of the targeted cities.

Out of 175 suspected illegals, a seventh of them turned out to be wanted on other criminal charges, including murder and child molestation. And this is bad … how?
Conteras needs a little more instruction on what constitutes rights. People who enter the country illegally have the right to due process on deportation, but they do not have the right to not be arrested for breaking the law. People who break the law get arrested when and where they are found, and it is not “terrorism” to arrest them at home, despite what immigration “activist” Khang Tran believes. If parents want to protect their “small children” from feeling fear, they should not come into the country illegally.
Now these same activists want to warn people of impending raids by setting up a hotline and trolling for tips. That should constitute interference with law enforcement, but the Orange County Register — which helpfully includes the phone number — doesn’t mention that in its report. If someone set up a hotline to tip off criminals about an ATF or DEA raid, you can bet your bottom dollar that it would get the attention of the local US Attorney lickety-split — and this should be no different.
UPDATE: Of course, Michelle wrote about this yesterday! Be sure to read her excellent post.

Border Security Finally Gets Addressed (Update: 89-1 Approved)

The Senate finally decided to listen to their constituents and allocate funds for increased border security and visa tracking today, after an overnight compromise between Democrats and Republicans. The agreement puts the White House in a bind, as President Bush had already threatened to veto the homeland security bill for spending too much money:

Senate Democrats and Republicans came together Thursday to devote an additional $3 billion to gaining control over the U.S.-Mexico border, putting Congress on a path to override President Bush’s promised veto of a $38 billion homeland security funding bill.
The deal resurrects a GOP plan launched Wednesday to pass some of the most popular elements of Bush’s failed immigration bill, including money for additional Border Patrol agents and fencing along the southern border. …
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, resolved their differences overnight and announced agreement Thursday morning. Cornyn won a promise to have some of the money used to go after immigrants who had entered the United States legally but had overstayed their visas.

Yesterday, an amendment offered by Lindsey Graham on this very basis got rejected by the Democrats as non-germane to the underlying bill on a party-line vote. The Democrats apparently reconsidered overnight, after Harry Reid admitted that he misunderstood the thrust of the amendment. The Senate just voted on this amendment again, and it passed, although several Senators missed the vote and afterwards demanded recognition that they would have voted in its support.
This will put Bush in a tough position. He wanted to veto the bill on the basis of overspending, an action that would help assist the GOP on fiscal responsibility. Now, however, the Republican caucus would likely override a veto to ensure that the border-control funds get approved and the border fence extended. It kicks out a key piece of leverage out from under the White House on a pork-laden bill that probably should get reconsidered.
The amendment does move towards better border security and visa management, even it is just a start on both. It funds more fully the efforts approved in the last Congress, but it does more than that. It gives Congress an opportunity to build trust with the American public by actually securing the borders and plugging the obvious holes in our visa management systems. If Congress can deliver on their promises in those two areas, we can once again revisit the question of what we do with the existing illegals after we’ve blocked entry for any more illegal entries. It could put real reform on the plate for a future session of Congress — assuming that the executive branch follows suit and fulfills the requirements now funded by Congress.
In all likelihood, the administration will probably wait for a more propitious opportunity to utilize a veto. The Democratic Congress will undoubtedly provide more such opportunities on future appropriations bills. Let’s get started on real border security now.
UPDATE: The Graham amendment passed 89-1. The lone holdout? George Voinovich, R-OH. Ten Senators did not vote, including Norm Coleman for obvious reasons, but also presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama. Kent Conrad and Ron Wyden were the two Senators who complained that they did not get the opportunity to vote in support of the amendment.
Border security looks a lot more bipartisan than it did two months ago, doesn’t it?

ID Cards For Illegal Immigrants?

In the absence of immigration reform, advocates of the McCain-Kennedy bill from this summer warned us, states and localities would start responding with their own patchwork of oddball legislation. Some opponents of the reform bill welcomed the idea, but probably won’t delight in this development from New Haven, Connecticut:

This city is becoming the first in the nation to offer identification cards to illegal immigrants, trying to bring them out of the shadows even as many municipalities crack down on them.
Beginning Tuesday, New Haven will offer the ID cards to all of its 125,000 residents, including some 10,000 to 12,000 illegal immigrants.
The cards will allow immigrants to open bank accounts and use other services that may be unavailable without driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs. If they can open bank accounts, immigrants will be less likely to carry large amounts of cash, a practice that makes them easy targets for robbers.
City officials say the cards will also encourage immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses to cooperate with police.

I’m torn on this idea. First, most if not all of the legal residents of New Haven would probably opt for a state-issued ID card, which would have more legitimacy, if not a driver’s license. The only people who would likely apply for this card would be those who are here illegally — which would make it very easy to find them later.
That’s not why New Haven created the card, of course. They claim it’s so that illegal immigrants don’t have to carry large amounts of cash, and so that they can cooperate with the police on criminal investigations. The latter makes little sense. Illegals don’t cooperate with law enforcement because they’re here illegally, not because they lack identification. This ID would reinforce their illegality, and if the police decided to cooperate with immigration officials, it would flag them immediately to get ICE involved.
And if the immigrants work so hard for such little pay, where do they get the large amounts of cash that New Haven deems so dangerous?
On the other hand, it’s hard to credit the critics of the plan on their major objection. They claim that the ID card will create a demand for more illegal immigrants. That also makes little sense, because illegals don’t come to the US because of a lack of picture IDs in their home country. They’re here for the work .. if we’re lucky.
However, it seems rather strange to have a government program that provides legitimacy to those who remain in violation of federal law. Had a normalization program been passed, then New Haven’s city ID would have been superceded by a federal immigration ID anyway. This looks like a publicity stunt by Mayor John DeStefano and the city council to get their names in the papers around the country. Apparently, they don’t care if they look as goofy as DeStefano’s picture in the process.

ABC: Middle Easterners Smuggled Across Southern Border

This news flash from ABC came across my desk during my CQ Radio show:

The FBI is investigating an alleged human smuggling operation based in Chaparral, N.M., that agents say is bringing “Iraqis and other Middle Eastern” individuals across the Rio Grande from Mexico.
An FBI intelligence report distributed by the Washington, D.C. Joint Terrorism Task Force, obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com, says the illegal ring has been bringing Iraqis across the border illegally for more than a year. …
The FBI report, issued last week, says the smuggling organization “used to smuggle Mexicans, but decided to smuggle Iraqi or other Middle Eastern individuals because it was more lucrative.” Each individual would be charged a fee of $20,000 to $25,000, according to the report.
The people to be smuggled would “gather at a house on the Mexican side of the border” and then cross the Rio Grande into the U.S., the report says.
“Unidentified individuals would then transport them to train stations in El Paso, Texas or Belen, New Mexico,” according to the FBI document.

ABC also reports that the US has mostly refused to allow Iraqi refugees to resettle in the US. Less than 800 had received permission to come here after the invasion, but the Bush administration had agreed to allow over six thousand more by the end of the year. Refugees, of course, usually leave with little more than the shirts on their backs, and for those fleeing the fighting in search of a better life of freedom here, we’d be heartless not to help.
Do you think those are the people paying $25,000 to get across the Rio Grande? Or do you suppose the “refugees” fleeing with those kinds of resources might have something else in mind entirely? And how convenient that they meet at train stations to go to all corners of the country, after paying a small fortune to get across the border illegally.
Remember when the American people demanded that Congress take action to close the border as a national security priority? This is what we meant.

Broder’s Petulant Rant

What really sets off a nationally-syndicated columnist whose essays appear in hundreds of publications each week? Apparently, it’s when average people influence their elected representatives on policy, instead of opinion leaders like himself. That seems to be the takeaway from David Broder’s new column today on immigration.
At Heading Right, I take a look at Broder’s cri de coeur over the use of “modern communications” in intimidating Congress into rejecting bad legislation. The paradigm has changed, and Broder appears unaware of it or incapable of understanding it — perhaps because he has so much to lose.

The Elusiveness Of Low-Hanging Fruit

Now that the comprehensive immigration bill has died on the floor of the Senate, it seems that few in Washington have the stomach to address the most pressing components of the issue. Some in the House want to do just that, The Hill reports, although they may not get a lot of support for an approach that focuses only on borders and visas. Leadership in both chambers and both parties would rather avoid immigration for the rest of this session.
At Heading Right, I take a look at the politics of this effort. With over 70% of the public favoring action to secure the borders and fix the visa system, it seems like this should be the low-hanging fruit of the political season. Will this Congress, which has accomplished next to nothing, be smart enough to pick it — and who wins if they don’t?

Mel Wants A Solution

Senator and RNC chair Mel Martinez apparently had a temper tantrum yesterday in his home state of Florida after the collapse of the immigration reform bill. He angrily challenged the bill’s opponents to come up with their own plan, saying the “voices of negativity” had to start offering solutions (via TMV):

The Chairman of the Republican Party on Friday lambasted Democrats and Republicans who helped kill an immigration bill in the Senate and challenged them to come up with a solution beyond “just build a fence along the border.”
“The voices of negativity now have a responsibility to come up with an answer,” RNC Chairman and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, R-Fla. said.
“How will you fix the situation to make peoples’ lives better? How will you continue to grow the economy? How will we bring people out of the shadows for our national security and for the sake of being a country that is just?” he demanded.

The answers seemed very clear to everyone outside of the Senate chambers for the past four weeks. Instead of offering a repeat of 1986, fix the underlying problems that allow for lousy border and visa security, as Congress has repeatedly promised, before saying “Trust us!” How difficult is that to comprehend?
For decades, we have encouraged people to illegally cross into the US, both through a lack of effort in securing the border and then even less effort to enforce the laws even when police discover them living in the country. Many of them have spent most of their lives understanding that Congress and each succeeding administration shrugged off the hypocrisy. We created this situation, and I would probably find myself in agreement with Martinez that we can’t just lay all the blame on those who took advantage of our own hypocrisies. We should find a way to normalize the status of those who have put down roots, lived lawfully, and want to assimilate into the US in a manner which treats them humanely but gives them no advantage over legal immigrants.
But we can’t do that until we have fixed the problems on the border and in the visa program. If Martinez finds himself offended that Americans look at the last several decades of deceit and hypocrisy of Congress and the executive branch and come to the rational conclusion that we don’t want to get fooled again, then he should grow a thicker skin and learn to listen a little more carefully. We have tried one amnesty with a message from Congress that “the check’s in the mail” for real border security and visa management. Pardon us if we can’t quite bring ourselves to play the Three-Card Monty again.
Secure the borders. Fix the broken visa system. Do that before creating an underresourced bureaucratic nightmare, and creating entire new classes of visas while the existing system remains an embarassing and dangerous failure. In other words, take responsibility for the decades of failure from the political class and build some credibility with the American voter.
That’s the solution, Senator Martinez. We’ve been saying this for years. Perhaps the problem is that you refuse to listen.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin notes that some Floridians have begun a movement to recall Martinez. In my opinion, that’s a short-sighted mistake. This is a man who gets a 100% from the National Right to Life Committee, a 70 from the National Taxpayers Union, a 100 from National Federation of Independent Businesses, and a 100 from the Gun Owners of America. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.