Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

IMMIGRATION UPDATE....Via Mickey Kaus, John O'Sullivan writes about the immigration debate in the New York Post today and has some kind words for Bill Clinton:

I recently suggested wrongly that there had been little or no enforcement of employer sanctions since the passage of the 1986 amnesty law....That was not quite accurate. The Clinton administration in fact managed some (albeit patchy) "internal" enforcement of employer sanctions. For instance, the period 1995-1997 saw 10,000 to 18,000 worksite arrests of illegals a year. Some 1,000 employers were served notices of fines for employing them.

Under the Bush administration, however, worksite arrests fell to 159 in 2004 with the princely total of three notices of intent to fine served on employers. Thus, worksite arrests under President Bush have fallen from Clintonian levels by something like 97 per cent even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime.

Unlike O'Sullivan, I don't especially want to deport the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. However, he's right that tighter border security is unlikely to make a dent in illegal immigration as long as there are jobs waiting on this side of the border. All it really does is motivate illegals to stay here permanently once they've made it across, since they know what a pain it will be to get back in if they ever leave.

But there's an alternative. Don't worry so much about the workers themselves, and instead crack down on employers. If the total cost of employing illegals i.e., actual cash wages plus fines and possible criminal charges goes up, employers will simply decide it's cheaper and more convenient to increase the cash part of that wage equation and hire American citizens instead. And if jobs for illegal immigrants dry up, illegal immigration will dry up too.

And the best part is that it's free! Make the fines big enough and the enforcement consistent enough, and the fines pay most of the cost of the enforcement. Couple it with more generous quotas for legal immigration, and the whole "illegal" part of the immigration problem could dry up almost entirely within a few years. It's as close to a free lunch as you can get.

Of course, there's that whole "cracking down on corporations" thing, which isn't exactly a strong point for today's Republican Party. After all, you don't want to piss off K Street! On the other hand, Michelle Malkin promises on behalf of her merry band of xenophobes that if George Bush supports anything resembling common sense on immigration, "This is not going to be forgotten."

Rock, meet hard place. I know you're going to get along famously.

Kevin Drum 2:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (77)

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Comments

Michelle Malkin is against a moderate position?

Inconceivable!

Posted by: mmy on April 26, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

What about jail time for repeat offenders. Treat them like pot smokers.

Posted by: cld on April 26, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

spot on -- there is a push and a pull with illeagal immegrants. We have the most control over the pull, and cracking down on employers is the right way to exert that control. I doubt, however, that the flow will stop until the push is addressed. And we have less influence over the push.

Posted by: dan on April 26, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

please don't link to michelle malklin and contribute to the referrer rotting of the internets.

Posted by: nova silverpill on April 26, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Bush and the Republicans would never back such commonsense actions as cracking down on employers. Indeed, some of us remember when, just last year, Bush was pushing to basically open the flood gates to get MORE under-paid immigrants into the country. That was the beginning of his whole "jobs Americans won't do" bit.

And the clear intention then was that he and his cronies wanted to take more jobs that Americans currently will do and convert them to jobs that don't pay enough for an American to subsist on. (Think of the meat-packing industry model, where meat-packing jobs used to be unionized and paid decent wages, but are now done almost entirely by illegal immigrants.)

That's still what he wants, and he'll get his way come hell or high water.

Posted by: Derelict on April 26, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK
And if jobs for illegal immigrants dry up, illegal immigration will dry up too.

This presumes that all illegal immigrants are job seekers, rather than, e.g., people relocating for family unification but evading the enormous waiting lists for legal immigration in various categories other than that of immediate family of US citizens.

This is, of course, a faulty assumption.

And the best part is that it's free! Make the fines big enough and the enforcement consistent enough, and the fines pay most of the cost of the enforcement.

This assumes that the actual costs of enforcement are actually low enough that the fines that could practically be collected from violators would pay it in any case. This is quite likely an optimistic fantasy.

Michelle Malkin promises on behalf of her merry band of xenophobes that if George Bush supports anything resembling common sense on immigration, "This is not going to be forgotten."

Er, so? Malkin is a hatemonger that is petulant because Bush isn't hateful enough. Unfortunately for her, though her spouting extreme versions of Bush rhetoric has gotten her some plaudits from the Bush cult, that cult worships Bush, not her. She is disposable to them, much as she likes to delude herself into thinking she is important.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

some kind words for Bill Clinton

Cue the frothing trolletariat.

Posted by: ckelly on April 26, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Even if you impose fines on some of these employers, all you are doing is ratcheting up the cost of hiring illegal workers. You're putting a price tag on it, and most of those employers would be willing to pay it. It's still cheaper than hiring Americans.

What would really impact the problem is jail time for employers breaking the law. Throw a couple of Wal-mart managers or golf course owners in jail for 16 months, and THAT would get noticed.

Posted by: Boots Day on April 26, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I certainly think that if one is going to crack down on illegal immigration, one would do it by enforcing employer sanctions. That's obviously a deliberately weak link in our border control policy. Nonetheless, (1) I doubt that employer sanctions will really, truly stop illegal immigration, and (2) at bottom, employer sanctions will cause the same humanitarian disaster as any other attempt to try to deport the 12 million illegal immigrants in this country.

With respect to (1), remember that many illegals are already employed by effectively non-sanctionable employers. Streetcorner day laborers, nannies and domestic workers, etc. Sure, you could raid Wal-Mart and agribusiness, but there'd be plenty of other jobs that they could find where it would be impossible to sanction the employers.

With respect to (2), even if the sanctions did work, what you would be doing is kicking millions of people out of work with no social safety net, either here or in their home countries. Other than being a really nice way to increase the poverty rate and the crime and misery that goes along with it, I don't see what that's going to do.

People don't favor "amnesties" because they are in favor of lawless chaos on the border. They favor them because in the real world, there isn't much else you can do.

Posted by: Dilan Esper on April 26, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, Michelle Malkin promises on behalf of her merry band of xenophobes that if George Bush supports anything resembling common sense on immigration, "This is not going to be forgotten." Kevin Drum

Even fewer people pay attention to Bangalong than they do Sullivan.

Posted by: JeffII on April 26, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

This is the issue that pulls the sheet off the immigration issue.

Mexican labor is a boon to the right. It keeps labor costs low and it keeps poor whites scared.

Why would they want to fix that by fining their friends? Better to build a wall that will do nothing and keep the brazero/boogeyman gravy train running on time.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on April 26, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is a perfectly sensible solution. It's clear that it will be a winner with the public, for the bleeding hearts don't have to witness pro-active deportations because we'll see self-deportation taking place instead. The law and order crowd will be happy for laws will be enforced. The low wage workers will be happy for the supply of competing labor will diminish.

The only groups unhappy with such a plan would be the illegal labor exploiting employers and the culture warrior - ethnic interest groups who care more for the interests of foreigners illegally present in our country than they do for American interests.

The problem is that Bush is likely to oppose the plan and drag Republican lawmakers with him. The challenge for the Democrats, when the win the House and the Senate, is whether they can stand firm for positive American interests or will they cave to their ethnic interests groups?

Posted by: TangoMan on April 26, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

This presumes that all illegal immigrants are job seekers, rather than, e.g., people relocating for family unification but evading the enormous waiting lists for legal immigration in various categories other than that of immediate family of US citizens.

This is, of course, a faulty assumption.

Of course. About half already have jobs in the US when they enter illegally. So you're right: they're not 'job seekers.'
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on April 26, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

159 arrests in 2004 and now they crack down big on a Dutch firm? I guess having 4 troops in Iraq just wins you a goldfish in a bag or a small stuffed animal.

Posted by: toast on April 26, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone have any figures on how many of the illegal residents are actually employed by corporations?

Posted by: Yancey Ward on April 26, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Leaving aside the odd assumption here that all businesses in America are owned by Republicans, and that the illegals are being hired by the giant corporations, and not mostly by smaller businesses...

Are employers going to be able to deal with this without being accused of discrimination when they try to screen potential employees?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 26, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Are employers going to be able to deal with this without being accused of discrimination when they try to screen potential employees?

What?

I have been asked to show proof of citizenship at every job I've had since 1998, and I think the resemblance between me and Juan the pool man is tenuous at best.

So I guess the answer is yes - this discriminates against employers who don't want to follow the law.

Posted by: craigie on April 26, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Call for wonkery: Why would someone pay a coyote a $1000 for a week-long hike through the desert, when he use the same money to buy a plane ticket to Atlanta or Orlando or Omaha and then just overstay his visa?

My only guess is that the most of those swimming across the Rio Grande have been interdicted before, are on an INS shit list, and can't enter the country legally now, even to visit Las Vegas or Six Flags.

If all of the above is correct (and I don't know if it is), then border interdiction really only helps you with people you've already caught before. And the more you crack down on the border, the more the resources shift to visa fraud and like strategems.

Posted by: kth on April 26, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Having watched Lou Dobbs on this issue - I have to wonder, who does Lou hate more: the Chinese or the Mexicans? So self-loathing Asian gal Michelle Malkin now hates Mexicans as much as Lou. My question to Lou applies to Michelle - do you hate Mexicans as much as you hate Asians? Hey - maybe Lou should propose marriage to Michelle!

Posted by: pgl on April 26, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm an employer and I don't think any of my employees are illegal, but how am I supposed to know? We ask for (per the current law) several forms of identification, but we don't have anyone who can tell a fake ID (other than obvious fakes). How much money do you guys want my company to spend to ensure that we don't hire any illegals?

Posted by: Mike Jenkins on April 26, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want you to spend any more money than you are to find illegals. I trust that you're making a good faith effort to screen them out. I would give anyone the benefit of the doubt if their regular procuedure involves checking the proper documents, even if those documents turn out to be forged.

I also trust that there are many business owners who make a conscious effort to hire illegals, in order to cut costs. Those are the people we need to be focusing on.

Posted by: Boots Day on April 26, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: crack down on employers. If the total cost of employing illegals i.e., actual cash wages plus fines and possible criminal charges goes up, employers will simply decide it's cheaper and more convenient to increase the cash part of that wage equation and hire American citizens instead. And if jobs for illegal immigrants dry up, illegal immigration will dry up too.
It's good to see you finally got around to reading my comment from more than a month ago when you were scratching your head over this matter. Pay better attention in the future, will you?


Posted by: jayarbee on April 26, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

And the best part is that it's free!

You write some pretty funny stuff.

Posted by: republicrat on April 26, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey,

The fields most dominated by immigrants (illegal and legal) are farming/fishing/forestry, construction/extraction, building cleaning/maintenance, food preparation, production, and computer mathematical. The typical pattern for illegals is that they are hired by small businesses and subcontractors that insulate large corporations from direct legal peril.

I'm sure there are studies aimed more directly at illegal aliens (with caveats about sampling error) but this might be a good start: http://www.cis.org/articles/2005/back1405.html

Posted by: toast on April 26, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Thus, worksite arrests under President Bush have fallen from Clintonian levels by something like 97 per cent even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime."

Where did he get 97%? It doesnt follow from his numbers which suggest 98 to 99% decline depending on where you start with his range given of 10,000 to 18,000.

Of course, I may be mistaken but it looks like he should be giving credit to a Mr. Rubenstein at VDARE.

"Worksite arrests had fallen by a factor of some 97 percent since 1997." He notes that those arrests had continued to fall in the interim.

http://www.vdare.com/rubenstein/051101_nd.htm

Posted by: Catch22 on April 26, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

You write some pretty funny stuff.

You keep writing this, and none of us have any idea what you're trying to say.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 26, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

And he links to Peggy Noonan who says "Just because they call you a jackass doesn't mean you're Lincoln".

And yes, she is referring to Dumya.

Posted by: DR on April 26, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Wow - what a stat. Under Bush actual employer enforcement of immigration laws dropped from 10,000 (to 18,000) to 159!

That means that administration basically decided to stop enforcing the law doesn't it? Not only is that bad policy - isn't that abrogating the pledge to defend the Constitution and all that?

Because although I'm torn on the issue (immigrants are hard working individuals striving for a better life. But I'm pretty convinced that their labor does drive down wages for working class American citizens). Kevin is right that we should look first at making sure our existing structure works.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 26, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad that Kevin is finally getting the clue that the House Republican bill is exactly right: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. The only thing we should be doing now is enforcement.

The only thing that was missing from Kevin's post is the following: "Sensenbrenner is right". Practice it with me, Kevin!

Posted by: Al on April 26, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Shoot, actually there is something else Kevin should admit, besides that Sensenbrenner is right: Harry Reid is wrong!

Posted by: Al on April 26, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

When an employer submits his SS and withholding to the government, he should be informed if the status of any listed employee is in question.
Go after the other enablers, too, the public sevants who dispense tax paid benefits without reasonable efforts to determine citizenship.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on April 26, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I sure hope the budget for workplace enforcement went down during the same period. Maybe not though. It would explain the large number of blogs on comic books out there.

Posted by: toast on April 26, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why would they want to fix that by fining their friends? Better to build a wall that will do nothing and keep the brazero/boogeyman gravy train running on time.

and funnell another cool billion or two to kbr -- tack it on to the concentration camp contract they already have. it's open-ended.

Posted by: linda on April 26, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Kevin's starting to make sense on this issue.

Kevin Drum: I don't especially want to deport the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

Neither does almost anyone else who posts here, including those, like me, who are hopping mad about the tolerance of illegal immigration.

Right or wrong, we're not going to deport 12M people. It would be horribly economically disruptive, and I don't think we have enough buses.

Don't worry so much about the workers themselves, and instead crack down on employers.

You mean like almost everyone who posts here and is serious about this has been suggesting?

If the total cost of employing illegals i.e., actual cash wages plus fines and possible criminal charges goes up, employers will simply decide it's cheaper and more convenient to increase the cash part of that wage equation and hire American citizens instead.

Uh huh. Unlike the false analogy to the War on Drugs or Prohibition, the difference here is that there's a legal substitute that's not much more expensive.

One correction: I'd change "American citizens" to "American workers". As defined by most in the H-1B debate, the latter term includes LPR's in addition to citizens.

Couple it with more generous quotas for legal immigration, and the whole "illegal" part of the immigration problem could dry up almost entirely within a few years.

Personally I'm not convinced that we should have larger quotas for legal immigration, particularly if those quotas are alloted to people with low paid skills (they'd have to be in order to affect the illegal immigration rate). OTOH I'm not adamantly opposed.

However, such quota increases would do almost nothing to fight illegal immigration without more effective enforcement. Without serious enforcement we're just saying we can't control our immigration, regardless of the policy we wish to adopt. That farce plays into the hands of the Cheap Labor Lobby.

Posted by: alex on April 26, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

As an employer (a union construction company), I must go through the process of having new employees fill out I-9 forms which are supposed to ensure that our potential employees are entitled to work in the U.S. My foremen, who are the first to deal with the new employees, are not expected to know how to determine if the documents shown are genuine or if they are examples of the abundantly available fake documents. In the past we have received letters from the Social Security Administration, if I recall correctly, telling us when there was a mismatch between name and SSN. Once confronted with this, the employee usually shrugs and leaves to find work with someone else - usually a competitor, as we have had some time to train them in our specialty trade. But once we are notified of a mismatch, either the employee has to clear up the problem or we can no longer employ him (sorry ladies, I'm trying not to be sexist but this is still an overwhelmingly male workforce).

The lag time between hire and notification can be as long as a year, but is typically a couple of months. The taxes we have withheld from the relatively high wages ($30/hr.)stay with the government agency to whom they were paid. (So much for the argument that the 'illegals' don't pay taxes!) I just heard, though, that the SSA had stopped sending out these notices. So how do we know when we have hired someone we shouldn't have? I know that many employers pay cash or somehow avoid playing by the rules, but for someone like myself, who is very interested in playing by the rules, I'm not sure how much more we can be expected to do to ensure that we have a 'legal' workforce. I certainly don't want to find out by being notified that I face legal proceedings and/or a fine!

Posted by: pacificardea on April 26, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

pacificardea: I know that many employers pay cash or somehow avoid playing by the rules, but for someone like myself, who is very interested in playing by the rules, I'm not sure how much more we can be expected to do to ensure that we have a 'legal' workforce. I certainly don't want to find out by being notified that I face legal proceedings and/or a fine!

Good point. Increased employment enforcement has to be coupled with an improved (electronic) SSN verification process, as has been proposed. We also need harder to counterfeit ID (if only ID was half as hard to counterfeit as a $20 bill - we have the technology) and enforcement of the production and use of fakes.

Better verification, coupled with a clear safe harbor provision for employers, would serve two purposes:

1. Take the burden off employers.

2. Prevent discrimination against Hispanics (especially those with foreign accents).

Posted by: alex on April 26, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK


derelict: That's still what he (BUSH) wants, and he'll get his way come hell or high water.


hell -or- high water?

heh..

sometimes....both...


Posted by: thsispaceavailable on April 26, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK


PACIFICARDEA: The lag time between hire and notification can be as long as a year, but is typically a couple of months.
When you make a purchase and present your credit card, how long does it take the establishment to validate it? There is no reason on earth that the near instant timeframe of consumer transactions could not be duplicated by the SSA, and inexpensively.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 26, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

From the article:

The Clinton administration in fact managed some (albeit patchy) "internal" enforcement of employer sanctions. For instance, the period 1995-1997 saw 10,000 to 18,000 worksite arrests of illegals a year. Some 1,000 employers were served notices of fines for employing them.

Under the Bush administration, however, worksite arrests fell to 159 in 2004 - with the princely total of three notices of intent to fine served on employers. Thus, worksite arrests under President Bush have fallen from Clintonian levels by something like 97 per cent - even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime.

"Under the Bush administration" is somewhat misleading. Catch22 points out the VDARE entry.

The table on that site shows that the drastic drop in enforcement from 1997 mostly happened during the Clinton administration, falling from 17,554 worksite arrests in 1997 to 953 in 2000, a factor of about 18. This doesn't excuse the Bush administration, which has definitely fallen down on that job as well, but it's important to point out.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 26, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

This doesn't excuse the Bush administration, which has definitely fallen down on that job as well, but it's important to point out.

That's right, because ultimately, we must blame everything bad on Clinton, or our heads would explode.

Posted by: craigie on April 26, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

"On the other hand, Michelle Malkin promises on behalf of her merry band of xenophobes..."

Malkin is a xenophobe?

Since when did we allow gooks and fishheads to get so uppity?

Posted by: tbozo's smarter younger brother on April 26, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK
What would really impact the problem is jail time for employers breaking the law.

Or, better yet, public execution. Perhaps by hanging, drawing, and quartering...

Seriously, though, its a crime with an economic motive. Ratcheting up the economic cost above the benefit takes away the motivation, and doing so via fines means that the cost born by violators can be used directly to do a public good.

Imprisonment ups the public cost, and reduces the cost efficiency, and is probably not substantially advantageous in dealing with this type of illegality in any reasonable amount.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz, nice table. I'm guessing that there is a nice correlation between the congressional budget authorization for ICE fugitive recovery and the number of arrests and fines. The trend probably looks a lot like the decrease in IRS audits for wealthy Americans.

Do you think congressional Republicans and the K Street project might have played a role?

Posted by: toast on April 26, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK


CMDICELY: Seriously, though, its a crime with an economic motive. Ratcheting up the economic cost above the benefit takes away the motivation, and doing so via fines means that the cost born by violators can be used directly to do a public good.

This seems something of a flip from the position you took last month. Now that you're on board, what sort of fine do you have in mind -- or will you just also adopt my suggestion of $50,000? :)


Posted by: jayarbee on April 26, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

This doesn't excuse the Bush administration, which has definitely fallen down on that job as well, but it's important to point out. Posted by: tbrosz

Look, children! See the erector of strawmen grasping at straws.

Yes Bush is bad, but remember, Clinton was badder.

Posted by: JeffII on April 26, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Why would someone pay a coyote a $1000 for a week-long hike through the desert, when he use the same money to buy a plane ticket to Atlanta or Orlando or Omaha and then just overstay his visa?"

Maybe they don't issue tourist visas to people whose only means are $1000 in cash?

But it is certainly true that a lot of the illegal immigrants in this country are people who came in on tourist visas and overstayed them. Or on student visas similarly overstayed.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 26, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK
This seems something of a flip from the position you took last month.

Its not.

One is "how to reduce the culpable employment of illegal aliens".

The other is "how to reduce illegal immigration".

Focussing on effective workplace enforcement, to the extent possible (and I've, in previous thread, laid out how I think that should be done, and ratcheting up fines is only part of it, dividing the interests of the violating employer from that of the illegal employee is part too, and part of the broader immigration strategy.)

But its unlikely to, alone, be the ideal road to combatting illegal immigration.

Now that you're on board, what sort of fine do you have in mind -- or will you just also adopt my suggestion of $50,000? :)

They ought to be compelled to make restitution to the worker and government for, at least, the minimum amount they would have been required to pay for the labor and associated employer-share taxes (in the case that the employment was used to evade US labor law in terms of wage & hour restrictions), plus (if a fee-based normalization scheme like the one I've suggested in previous threads is adopted) to pay the normalization fine for any eligible illegal aliens they employed, plus forfeit any additional economic benefit derived from the work performed by the illegal workers, plus pay a substantial fine on top of that (say, $100/illegal worker/day).

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm an employer and I don't think any of my employees are illegal, but how am I supposed to know? We ask for (per the current law) several forms of identification, but we don't have anyone who can tell a fake ID (other than obvious fakes). How much money do you guys want my company to spend to ensure that we don't hire any illegals?"

Sorry, but "how much do you want me to spend" is a problem for you, not the rest of us.

As with everything in law, the test will be "reasonability." If you do a reasonable check, you won't be held responsible. But the facts always affect the reasonability. Do you run credit checks on the SSN's they give you to see if the address relating to the SSN is the same as the one the employee gives you? Do the employees give you any reason to think they might not be legal? Do they speak English? If their English is poor, why? If born here, where did they attend school? If they are legal immigrants, check the green card and call the INS to find out if it's valid. What kind of employment history do they give you? What does their previous employer say about them?

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 26, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: The table on that site shows that the drastic drop in enforcement from 1997 mostly happened during the Clinton administration, falling from 17,554 worksite arrests in 1997 to 953 in 2000, a factor of about 18. This doesn't excuse the Bush administration, which has definitely fallen down on that job as well, but it's important to point out.

Not only do I agree, but it's consistent with what I've long said - Reagan, BushI, Clinton and BushII are all guilty of not enforcing the law.

This issue scares me a bit because the ultimate effect of not enforcing a reasonable immigration policy is a backlash, complete with bigotry and xenophobia.

Posted by: alex on April 26, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that prosecutions of the big employers who hire illegal immigrants has plummeted 97% under the Republicans ought to be repeated like a mantra by every Dem over and over and over. This has always been the only way to effectively deal with the question of illegal immigration and it resonates.

It reinforces the perception that Republicans only go after the little guy and the leave the people responsible at the top unaccountable for their crimes.

It drives a big wedge through the Republican party, knocking off a big chunk of angry white males - that long sought-after group.

It keeps the Democratic relationship with the Hispanic community intact by putting the emphasis on the illegal employer not the poor, hapless worker.

Posted by: Chrissy on April 26, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike O'Sullivan, I don't especially want to deport the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. ... Of course, there's that whole "cracking down on corporations" thing, which isn't exactly a strong point for today's Republican Party.

Business may be a factor, but Bush's primary opposition to mass-deportation seems to be more rooted in the potential breakup of families--a very reasonable concern (sincere or not, and it appears to be sincere). And unless I misssed something, this will continue to be an issue unless Section 1 of the 14th Amendment is amended.

Amnesty for families with illegal immigrant parents and children with US citizenship is one possible solution. However, making that policy would obviously provide warped incentives to illegal immigrants and potentially compound the problem. Or maybe the expected solution is to let the family decide--country of origin citizenship laws allowing (and that appears to be a very mixed bag).

Obviously if there wasn't such a large illegal immigrant population, the issue wouldn't be as significant--and the go-forward solutions address decreasing that population in various ways. However, I have yet to see much discussion of the pro's and con's of those solutions for families of mixed citizenship. (Or maybe I'm looking in the wrong places?)

Posted by: has407 on April 26, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Actually all this business about fines and raising the cost of hiring immigrants makes me wonder---

Why don't we just auction off visas.

I wonder what the value of a work visa (or even a better a green card) would be on the open market, I would guess somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000 (who knows, let the market sort it out).

You could keep the present paperwork intensive system of "free" (or at least below market price) visas for political refugees and the spouse and children of US citizens.

Do the math, at $50,000 a visa and, say, they, issue 500,000 a year--- That's $25 billion a year. You can give it to foreign aid or health care or (who are we kidding), tax cuts for the rich.

Posted by: beowulf on April 26, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

beowulf: I wonder what the value of a work visa (or even a better a green card) would be on the open market, I would guess somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000 (who knows, let the market sort it out).

Oh that would do a lot to discourage illegal immigration. How many potential illegal immigrants do you think can come up with that kind of money?

Posted by: alex on April 26, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK


CMDICELY: But its unlikely to, alone, be the ideal road to combatting illegal immigration. . . . ...plus pay a substantial fine on top of that (say, $100/illegal worker/day).
Yeah, not near ideal at that rate, and tricky to compile the total to boot. My easily understood and fair figure of $50,000 per incident is far more likely to bring about the desired result.

As for your distinction between "how to reduce the culpable employment of illegal aliens" and "how to reduce illegal immigration," it would be much reduced if the penalty on employers that I proposed were adopted because increasing the economic motive for employers would have the effect of reducing it for illegal immigrants, as far fewer job would be offered to them.

In any case, your opposition to heavy employer sanctions last month had less to do with this distinction than it did your contention that it could not be enforced. As I stated in a comment above, enforcement would be much aided by an easily implemented system of electronic verification of legality.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 26, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

It might be worth revisiting NAFTA. For whatever economic forces are working inside the treaty, illegal immigration has skyrocketed since it passed. I don't know all the bullet points, but I do know that the big American and Canadian corporate farms can undercut the mexican farmer in corn production forcing small farms (poor already) completely out of business.

Posted by: bcinaz on April 26, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK
Yeah, not near ideal at that rate, and tricky to compile the total to boot.

I think in many cases my number would be much higher than yours, and that's without the trickiest numbers, which mostly provide a guarantee that someone that thinks up a way to make lots of quick money from hiring illegal immigrants still doesn't beat the system if they get caught.


As for your distinction between "how to reduce the culpable employment of illegal aliens" and "how to reduce illegal immigration," it would be much reduced if the penalty on employers that I proposed were adopted because increasing the economic motive for employers would have the effect of reducing it for illegal immigrants, as far fewer job would be offered to them.

Insofar as that is true, I think it is more true with my penalties, for the above-stated reason. But even then, I don't think employer-enforcement is the most bang-for-the-buck way of addressing illegal immigration.

OTOH, if you are concerned primarily about reducing the level of immigration while reducing illegal immigration, then it is probably one of the best approaches, since it doesn't involve letting more people come legally. Though even Kevin recommends both allowing more legal immgration along with employer sanction. I agree with that broad outline of Kevins, as both prongs serve important needs related to immigration policy.

In any case, your opposition to heavy employer sanctions last month had less to do with this distinction than it did your contention that it could not be enforced.

I was not opposed to heavy employer sanctions last month, or any other time. I think without provisions that divide the interests of the employer from the employee with regard to enforcement, they will be unenforceable, and I don't think they are the holy grail of reducing illegal immigration but, nevertheless, I think that, in the right context, they are an appropriate and desirable part of immigration policy, and have for quite some time (and have, in fact, recommended heavier employer sanctions as a component of the reforms I've recommended in many previous threads on the topic.)

As I stated in a comment above, enforcement would be much aided by an easily implemented system of electronic verification of legality.

Not sure that's really going to help in the case of personal services or informal businesses that employ plenty of illegal immigrants, though certainly it might cut down on employment through formal businesses with fraudulent documents to meet I-9 requirements, which I'd expect are the areas where businesses are least culpable (and often completely innocent) now.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK
Business may be a factor, but Bush's primary opposition to mass-deportation seems to be more rooted in the potential breakup of families--a very reasonable concern (sincere or not, and it appears to be sincere). And unless I misssed something, this will continue to be an issue unless Section 1 of the 14th Amendment is amended.

It'll be an issue even if Section 1 of the 14th Amendment were modified as lots of anti-immigrant types seem to want; lots of illegal immigrants are family members of legal immigrants that come illegally because of the enormous waits for immigration in certain categories from certain countries, or are family members of US citizens (other than the born-here children of illegal immigrants) but not in the unlimited categories. Limiting birthright citizenship to either children of citizens or children of citizens or legal immigrants won't have much effect on this at all.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Klueless Kevin is sorta back!

While the first part of his post is slightly reasonable, the end is not.

MM wants to reduce illegal immigration, as do a majority of Americans. Kevin Drum apparently thinks they're "xenophobes".

And, Bush's position is hardly "moderate". Take a look at his original guest worker plan.

As for Drum's proposal, I believe I've spotted a bit of a problem: Don't worry so much about the workers themselves, and instead crack down on employers.

The problem is that you can't crackdown on employers without conducting raids or doing other forms of investigation, which might result in deportations. (Unless, like Bush, you let all the workers go free).

In fact, the recent show raid of IFCO Systems resulted in a protest in Chicago which was organized by one of the organizers of the big March 10 rally. He also "serves on the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, an advisory council to Mexican President Vicente Fox."

On a related note, see Links between the Democratic Party and the Mexican government and Senator Dick Durbin supports illegal aliens marching in our streets

Posted by: TLB on April 26, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

The key is in these formulas:

$cost_of_legal_worker = $payroll + $benefits + $taxes

$cost_of_illegal_worker = $payroll + ($fine * likelihood_of_getting_fine)

Right now the "$fine" value is miniscule, and the "likelihood_of_getting_fine" is essentially zero.

Make the $fine substantiatively equal to the $benefits+$taxes of a legal worker, and you're still not there because "likelihood_of_getting_fine" is never going to be above, say, 10%. The fine HAS to be at LEAST 100x lost benefits and taxes (benefits because, in the end, WE end up paying for their health care costs), AND enforcement HAS to be at LEAST 1% before the two equations start getting somewhat equivalent.

Until the fines increase, until enforcement increases, and until real jailtime gets attached to each and every corporate officer who knows or should have known about illegal workers, there is simply no way to stop illegal immigration.

And, as Kevin said and I have ranted about before, there is NO way to stop illegal immigration from a country of utter squalor while employers are still dangling carrots for the few who get through the various dragnets and border patrols. Shoot half of all illegal immigrants on sight and you'll still have illegal immigrants coming through, because a 50% chance at a relatively prosperous life is better than 0%!

Posted by: Jet Tredmont on April 26, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

TLB,

Your hardly one to say what is "reasonable".

MM wants to reduce illegal immigration, as do a majority of Americans. Kevin Drum apparently thinks they're "xenophobes".

Kevin Drum, rather explicitly, also wants to reduce illegal immigration, and has laid out how he thinks that ought to be done. Kevin has not said that the majority of Americans that want to reduce illegal immigration are "xenophobes". He said that Michelle Malkin and the small group of followers she has are. Which is, after all, not inconsistent with them wanting to reduce illegal immigration like most everyone else -- those views are compatible, though neither necessarily implies the other.

As for Drum's proposal, I believe I've spotted a bit of a problem: Don't worry so much about the workers themselves, and instead crack down on employers.

The problem is that you can't crackdown on employers without conducting raids or doing other forms of investigation, which might result in deportations.

Inasmuch as this is true, its not a problem. Plus, "worry about" and "affect" aren't the same thing. Targetting employers is different than targeting individual illegal workers, though of course it will reveal illegal workers.

(Unless, like Bush, you let all the workers go free).

As noted, Bush doesn't crackdown on employers, with or without letting workers go free.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely -- Understood that will be a continuing problem until there is better enforcement to reduce illegal immigration. However, it is likely that all of those family members have, or have a right to, citizenship in their country of origin at the time they enter the US.

From my admittedly limited investigation, it is unclear what the effective status of a child would be when returned to their parents' country of origin(s). There are treaties, e.g., Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but coverage and ratification seems spotty. Or it may be a a largely academic question given the size of different illegal immigrant nationalities and the laws of their country of origin (e.g., IIRC Mexico automatically grants citizenship if the parents--one or both?--are Mexican citizens.)

Posted by: has407 on April 26, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK


CMDICELY: I think in many cases my number would be much higher than yours, and that's without the trickiest numbers, which mostly provide a guarantee that someone that thinks up a way to make lots of quick money from hiring illegal immigrants still doesn't beat the system if they get caught.
Maybe so. But whether it would be higher or not, public impressions count for a lot. Laying out a plan like yours before the American people, employers, and illegal immigrants, would leave many scratching their heads and shrugging, as they mostly absorbed the single figure mentioned: $100. Whereas, $50,000 per incident would get everyone's attention.
OTOH, if you are concerned primarily about reducing the level of immigration while reducing illegal immigration, then it is probably one of the best approaches, since it doesn't involve letting more people come legally.
I don't understand how anything I said could be construed as a desire to decrease legal immigration. Indeed, my suggestion about financial penalties is specific and does not necessarily exclude the possibility of increasing legal immigration.
I was not opposed to heavy employer sanctions last month, or any other time. I think without provisions that divide the interests of the employer from the employee with regard to enforcement, they will be unenforceable
I don't recall you making this point last month, only that mandating the penalty I suggested would be unenforceable. Regardless, I fail to understand how penalizing only the employer (I've not called for any fine on illegal immigrants) would ally employer and illegal immigrants. As fewer are hired, fewer would apply.
Not sure that's really going to help in the case of personal services or informal businesses that employ plenty of illegal immigrants, though certainly it might cut down on employment through formal businesses with fraudulent documents to meet I-9 requirements, which I'd expect are the areas where businesses are least culpable (and often completely innocent) now.
While I agree that enforcement would be the most difficult in informal settings such as those you mention, harsh penalties would certainly give pause to many as long as sufficient publicized enforcement reinforced the deterrent. As for formal businesses, and especially larger businesses, I don't share your expectations regarding the likelihood of their culpability. Many illegally documented workers are seasonal employees who return year after year, drawing unemployment during the winter months. They develop relationships with their American citizen co-workers and readily disclose their illegal status, though it is not a matter spoken about by managers. This open-secret policy of hiring illegal workers is widely practiced by many large corporations, who obviously benefit by being able to hold down the wages of their permanent employees. Likewise, many of these same corporations and others who do not have a seasonal employee program will make extensive use of temporary workers during busy times, the majority of whom are also illegally documented.


Posted by: jayarbee on April 26, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Only way to go is against employers. Illegals have nothing to lose--they'll just try to get in the next day after they are deported.

There are many solutions to getting rid of illegals, but they cannot be implemented with the corruption of our political parties, Dems aching to get back in power with the Hispanic vote and Reps bought and paid for by business.

Another amnesty for the 12 million here would, of course, result in an exponential growth of illegal immigration.

Posted by: myron on April 26, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think people who love civil liberties may one day regret this push to come down hard on employers because the level of government documentation, involvement, and control in employment relations is going to go way up. I can't see how this won't essentially require an internal-passport type document because employers are going to say (rightly?) that they dont have a way of disinguishing between reliable and fraudulent documentation.

Posted by: ChetBob on April 26, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK
I can't see how this won't essentially require an internal-passport type document because employers are going to say (rightly?) that they dont have a way of disinguishing between reliable and fraudulent documentation.

I think the most effective way of ramping up employer enforcement is to divide interests between employers and employees, and then actually spend the money and effort to enforce the law, not to increase documentation requirements.

Sure, the I-9 process isn't perfect, but you can't increase the documentation requirements much more without requiring essentially an "internal passport" and, frankly, I don't like treating work as a privilege for which people within the country are presumptively unqualified as it is, and I certainly don't want to make it harder to prove you are qualified to work.

But I think the calls to make the process more rigorous are misguided when the problem isn't that the process isn't involved enough but that there is little will for enforcement, primarily, and secondly that the interests of the employer and employee are aligned, making enforcement more difficult than it needs to be.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK
There are many solutions to getting rid of illegals, but they cannot be implemented with the corruption of our political parties, Dems aching to get back in power with the Hispanic vote and Reps bought and paid for by business.

Granting, arguendo, your portrayal of the relevant partisan interests, it should still be possible to implement policies in this field so long as they meet one of the following criteria:

1) Not seen as anti-Hispanic by the Hispanic community, or
2) Not seen as anti-business by the business community.

Depending, of course, on which party you expect to successfully champion them.

Are you saying there are no strategies that cannot hope to sell the message that they are at least one of "not anti-Hispanic" or "not anti-business"?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK
Regardless, I fail to understand how penalizing only the employer (I've not called for any fine on illegal immigrants) would ally employer and illegal immigrants.

Because having an employer is of benefit to the employee, and, when the employer is caught, they are almost certainly not going to be allowed to continue to employ the illegal employee. Therefore, in the absence of some other arrangement, illegal employees have interests aligned with their employers.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 26, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

craigie, jeffII:

I showed that the entire premise of the post was misleading, and it went over your head. Go back and try again.

***

toast:

tbrosz, nice table.

Thank Catch22, who pointed out the site.

I'm guessing that there is a nice correlation between the congressional budget authorization for ICE fugitive recovery and the number of arrests and fines. The trend probably looks a lot like the decrease in IRS audits for wealthy Americans.

I'm guessing that "guessing" is pretty much useless in an argument like this. If you can locate numbers showing that the ICE budget fell by the same ratio as worksite arrests between 1997 and the end of 2000, then you'll have something.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 26, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

The key is in these formulas:

$cost_of_legal_worker = $payroll + $benefits + $taxes

$cost_of_illegal_worker = $payroll + ($fine * likelihood_of_getting_fine)

Right now the "$fine" value is miniscule, and the "likelihood_of_getting_fine" is essentially zero.

Make the $fine substantiatively equal to the $benefits+$taxes of a legal worker, and you're still not there because "likelihood_of_getting_fine" is never going to be above, say, 10%. The fine HAS to be at LEAST 100x lost benefits and taxes (benefits because, in the end, WE end up paying for their health care costs), AND enforcement HAS to be at LEAST 1% before the two equations start getting somewhat equivalent.

Posted by: Jet Tredmont

This factor also applies to almost all other cases in which businesses cheat on wages, benefits, worker safety, environmental laws, consumer fraud, etc.

Given that the chance of getting caught and if caught being forced to pay full restitution is significantly less than 100%, there is no incentive to not cheat unless the victims are able to recover more than they were cheated out of. In most cases, even the costs of legal fees do not balance this equation.

I would be in favor of improving the process by which businesses like those described by pacificardea can check on the status of prospective workers and get more timely responses when government checks of the data show potential problems. For businesses that make a good faith effort to check on the status of their workers, and particularly those that pay competitive wages to their workers, fines should remain nominal or be waived.

Businesses that do not make good faith efforts, or which employ a large enough percentage of undocumented workers to show that they were likely aware of the problem, should face larger fines. Those that pay substandard wages, offer poor working conditions and/or cheat workers out of promised wages, overtime or benefits, should be subject to triple damages in civil suits and much larger fines. Those that both employ large numbers of undocumented workers and cheat on pay, benefits or working conditions should be subject to crippling fines and/or criminal sanctions, up to and including jail for responsible managers or owners.

Posted by: tanj on April 26, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

My point was you can't pin everything on the oval office. They are largely hog-tied by changing congressional directives, laws, and budget allocations. To state the obvious, the White House is responsible for enforcing the laws but they can only work with what they are given by congress. And yes this was during the watch of Tom Delay and the K street project. Here's some info from http://migration.ucdavis.edu/MN

Decreasing budget:

The number of ICE hours devoted to worksite enforcement fell from 471,210 in 1999 to 177,975 in 2003

ICE had a budget of $3.7 billion in FY04, including $11 million or 0.3 percent for worksite enforcement.


Congressional directives now force ICE to largely avoid businesses not related to "critical infrastructure." Walmart, USC, and big agriculture are now on the honor system:

Much of the worksite enforcement since September 11, 2001 involved screening 259,000 employee records of 3,600 "critical infrastructure" employers, such as those providing services in airports and military installations; 5,000 unauthorized workers were discovered.


Decreasing autonomy of local inspectors:

local inspectors must [now] obtain approval from Washington before conducting operations not related to critical infrastructure, such as checking for unauthorized foreigners at airports and nuclear plants


No efficient mechanism to utilize public tips:

ICE continues to receive tips from the public on possible unauthorized foreigners, but rarely follows up because, ICE says, the tips lack sufficiently detailed information and there are too few investigative resources. ICE received over 301,000 tips in FY05, but apprehended only 671 unauthorized foreigners as a result.

Posted by: toast on April 26, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

toast:

Now that's what I'm talking about. A large amount of very useful information on that site. Thanks!

Do they have any direct comparisons with the budget in 1997? Of course, a department's budget size usually has very little to do with whether or not they are doing something useful with it.

Also, note that the falloff in enforcement long preceded 9/11.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 26, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Michelle Malkin of Asian (Filipino) descent? She's the equivalent of a gay homophobe.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 26, 2006 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

$cost_of_legal_worker = $payroll + $benefits + $taxes

$cost_of_illegal_worker = $payroll + ($fine * likelihood_of_getting_fine)

Huh? I thought the poster above said he did have to pay taxes on his illegal workers - and presumably he was in a situation where there were no "benefits" to be paid, as otherwise he would've immediately uncovered the fact that the workers were undocumented. And the literature I've read states that most illegal workers are paying taxes. So if the business is even maintaining a figleaf of deniability about employing illegals, doesn't it have to be paying FICA as if the SS numbers the illegals had presented were real?

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 26, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

To brooksfoe: You are right, although the fact that a worker is undocumented does not become known to the employer immediately - most often it takes months after a payroll report is filed. But your statement that if there is to be a figleaf of deniability, the employer must report and pay all withholding taxes due, cuts to the chase: we must do so within very specific and unforgiving deadlines, and "I thought he was illegal" is not an excuse (and there are no refunds if he was, indeed, 'illegal'). If an employer is exploiting undocumented workers by not withholding taxes, it is doing so knowingly, as the company must be falsifying their payroll records, which are , of course, a key component of the entirety of their financial recordkeeping and reporting obligations.

To Cal Gal: I know you weren't responding to my earlier post, but I thought I might comment on yours from my perspective as an employer. My company operates in the "multi-employer" union environment, so we hire and/or lay off, on a daily basis, union qualified workers, journeymen and apprentices. When they are not working for us, they (if all goes well) they are working for another union carpenter. We pay their benefits to the union based on the hours they work for us. They are dispatched to the jobsite ready to work, not to interview for the job and wait for a callback after we've done a week of background checks on their schools, contacted their previous employers or waded through INS (AKA Homeland Security) phone menus to leave a message and wait for a callback. The best we can realistically do is follow the current law and rely, within reason, on the documents they present in filling out their I-9 forms, and hire them or not. If we hire them, after the first payroll period, we wait for the SSA to inform us if the names and SSN's we reported are invalid. The SSA should be able to do so faster, as Jayarbee notes. Privacy laws notwithstanding, there must be a way for us to get quicker feedback.

Alex's words on discrimination are well taken, but employers are, to my understanding, already barred from discriminating against job seekers on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, marital status, and so on. As a result, what we ask one, we must ask all. There is no 'good ol' boy' exemption from filling out the I-9 and providing documentation for the employer's records. As with the issues above, there are plenty of laws and policies in effect - after all, these are hardly new problems - but there is a political price to pay for strict - or even mild - enforcement.

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Posted by: gfhgf on April 27, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

That's right focus on cracking down on employers.

Posted by: John on April 27, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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