.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Omniarchy

Omniarchy describes the principals and positions of a new political philosophy in the United States. The originality of the political positions espoused by the essays contained on the following pages is matched by the novelty of the name used to define them: Omniarchy. If anarchy is the rule of none, monarchy is the rule of one, and oligarchy is the rule of some, then Omniarchy is the rule of all.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Stop Illegal Immigration - Arrest Illegal Employers

According to The New York Times, the United States spends $7.3 billion annually to secure its borders, an increase of 58% since the terror attacks of 9/11. What do we get for our $20,000,000 per day? We get emergency declarations from the governors of New Mexico and Arizona telling us that the international borders of their states are as porous as sieves.

Last Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff responded to these emergency declarations by admitting the failure of his department to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants and by suggesting that we need to completely rethink our entire approach to illegal immigration.
"We have decided to stand back and take a look at how we address the problem and solve it once and for all," Mr. Chertoff said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "The American public is rightly distressed about a situation in which they feel we do not have the proper control over our borders."
I couldn't him agree more. Nevertheless, I'm pessimistic about our prospects of resolving the problem of illegal immigration anytime soon because the federal government is only confronting one aspect of it. We must institute a comprehensive approach if we want to stop illegal immigration "once and for all."

Until the mid-1980s, America's immigration regulations concentrated on reducing the supply of inexpensive workers by prohibiting or restricting the number of foreign nationals permitted to migrate to the United States. As huge numbers of college-educated baby boomers began to enter the workplace in the mid-1960s, the price of unskilled labor began to rise rapidly, approaching annual growth rates during the 1970s of double digit percentage increases. These increased costs began to create a thriving black market for cheap and illegal labor, and illegal immigrants began to pour into the United States.

By 1986 Congress was forced to do something to staunch the flow of illeal immigrants, and it passed the Immigration Control and Reform Act (ICRA). In addition to providing amnesty for millions of undocumented workers, this law stipulated that employers were required to ensure that their employees were permitted to work in the United States legally. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was selected to enforce the ICRA and investigate employers of illegal alien workers. The INS could prosecute those employers who were found to be in willful violation of the ICRA between $250 and $10,000 per illegal worker and even imprison flagrant recidivists for up to six months.

Even the best laws must be enforced to be effective, however. Although it rarely, if ever, instituted criminal prosecutions against the employers of illegal workers, the INS did enforce the ICRA by imposing civil penalties, albeit anemically, throughout the 1990s. By 1996, however, Congress reverted to its traditional and politically expeditious approach of immigration control: sealing the borders and attacking the defenseless immigrants themselves. Congress doubled the size of the Border Patrol, increased its technological resources, and restricted the access of non-citizens to numerous social welfare programs such as Medicaid and food stamps regardless of any federal income taxes that these workers might have paid. Finally, as the primary focus of law enforcement shifted back onto the undocumented workers, the prosecution of the domestic employers of illegal immigrants deteriorated from negligible to virtually non-existent. In 1992 the INS fined more than a thousand companies for violating the ICRA, but the number of prosecutions dwindled throughout the 1990s. By 2002 the INS estimated that more than 7,500,000 illegal aliens lived in the United States, and it fined all 13 of their employers.

Thankfully, the INS was not the only federal bureau responsible for the enforcement of federal laws intended to preclude the employment of illegal workers. Federal law also empowers the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to fine employers who submit W-4 forms with incomplete or incorrect employee identification information such as inaccurate Social Security Numbers. According to the Government Accounting Office, (GAO) the IRS estimated that 353,000 illegal workers paid federal income taxes in 2000 and that more than 265,000 of them did so by using fallacious Social Security Numbers.

Unlike the INS, however, the enforcement of federal law by the IRS has not diminished recently. Surprisingly, the GAO found that IRS had fined exactly same number of companies in 2003 as it had in 2002 and 2001 and 2000. Unfortunately, that number was zero. Yes, zero as in absolutely none. In fact, since the IRCA became federal law nearly twenty years ago, the GAO reported that IRS has not fined a single company for filing incomplete or incorrect Social Security Numbers. Ever. Although the IRS has been totally negligent in enforcing federal immigration statutes, instead of merely perfunctory like the INS, its policy does contain the virtue of consistency.

Moreover, the enforcement of the employer provisions of American immigration law is likely to continue to deteriorate. As a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002. It removed the INS from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and placed it within the DHS, renaming it Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) in the process. According to the DHS, however, the priorities of the CIS are
"to promote national security, continue to eliminate immigration case backlogs, and improve customer services."
Thus, the enforcement of the immigration regulations of the United States government has shifted from criminal prosecution in the DOJ to the quasi-military function of national security in the DHS. The CIS is charged with protecting America's national borders from illegal incursions and ensuring, to the greatest extent possible, that every foreign national in the United States has entered this country legally. Thus, the CIS focuses on preventing illegal immigration, deporting illegal immigrants and prosecuting their domestic abettors; it does not focus on eliminating the inducement that gainful employment offers to destitute aliens by prosecuting their criminal employers.

Although the investigative divisions of the CIS and IRS must focus on securing our borders and collecting our taxes respectively, one organization within the federal government is concerned with enforcing American labor regulations: the Employment Standards Administration of the aptly named Department of Labor. Its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for "enforcing a number of federal laws which set basic labor standards," including issues that pertain to migrant and immigrant workers. In 2003, the WHD spent over one million hours conducting nearly 40,000 investigations, more than eighty percent of which pertained to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. Furthermore, it conducted nearly 13,000 investigations in industries that hire undocumented workers frequently such as agriculture, lodging, restaurants and healthcare.

Thus, simple logic dictates the Congress must relocate the enforcement of the employer provisions of the IRCA from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Labor immediately. In short, Congress must equate a violation of the ICRA with a violation the FLSA and demand that the Department of Labor enforces this law assiduously.

Amoral employers who sought cheap and docile unskilled workers a century ago would often employ young children as menial labors in atrocious conditions. As an employment practice, child labor was considered to be a social rather than economic issue during the Nineteenth Century and, hence, beyond the purview of the federal government. In fact, federal statutory prohibitions against the employment of juvenile workers were deemed to be unconstitutional not once but twice by the Supreme Court in the early Twentieth Century. This attitude changed during the New Deal, however, and the scourge childhood labor was eradicated by the FLSA.

As a method of exploiting employees and deflating the wages of adult American, child labor differs very little from the employment of illegal immigrants. Child labor was eradicated by prosecuting exploitative employers, not victimized employees. Similarly, the federal government must shift its enforcement policies of the IRCA. Instead of persecuting hapless and vulnerable undocumented workers who migrate here illegally in order to improve their standard of living, the federal government must prosecute their unscrupulous American employers who hire them in order to improve their profit margins unfairly and illegally. In this way, and this way only, can the federal government begin to eliminate the scourge of illegal immigration.

By itself, the harassment, arrest and deportation of undocumented workers will not end or diminish illegal immigration. These efforts attack only the supply of cheap labor, not the demand for it. If a commodity, such as the illegal employment of undocumented workers or the illegal use of narcotic drugs, is to be extirpated from a society, prohibitions against both the purveyors and the consumers must be instituted and enforced equitably and vigorously. To concentrate on the supply of an illegal commodity exclusively while ignoring the demand for it completely obviates any realistic possibility of its eradication. The dynamics of supply and demand are immutable: if the demand for an illegal commodity exists, suppliers will endeavor to meet it arduously. Penalizing the suppliers of cheap labor, such as smugglers and immigrants, while ignoring the consumers of cheap labor, such as their corporate and individual employers, is like making heroin illegal and prosecuting the pushers, but giving the junies a free pass. Only a comprehensive approach to the pernicious influence of illegal immigration will cure those employers addicted to the use of inexpensive and exploitable laborers.

Drastically altering federal immigration and employment statutes by granting legal status to "temporary workers", as President Bush proposed in January of 2004, won't necessarily inhibit the growth of illegal immigration either, and it could make matters worse. Such a program would not only reward employers and employees who have violated existing federal law flagrantly; it would legitimize exploitative employment practices. Moreover, it would induce millions of temporary legal workers to remain in the United States after their work visas have expired, thereby becoming permanent illegal workers. Most perniciously, a temporary worker program will merely legitimize the perpetual degradation of a replaceable underclass of alien workers.

Although open immigration may have depressed the value of American labor in the early Twentieth Century, it enhanced the value of American culture. Millions of the most intrepid, confident and diligent people from virtually every nation on Earth have migrated to the United States, not to simply earn a better wage but to build a better life. They were not stigmatized legally as fit to work here, but somehow unfit to live here. Throughout history, amoral employers have exploited immigrants egregiously, but not since the abolition of human slavery has United States government sanctioned this exploitation by creating a permanent and legal subclass of American workers. It cannot be permitted to do so again.

When he proposed his temporary worker program, President Bush said,
"There must be strong workplace enforcement with tough penalties for anyone, for any employer violating these laws."
What are you waiting for Mr. President? Isn't it about time you got serious about illegal immigration? Isn't it about time that you demanded that your agencies begin enforcing the federal laws already on the books?

If you start throwing some illegal employers into federal penitentiaries, maybe the rest of them will stop hiring illegal workers. I think it's a pretty safe bet that fewer people will sneak into our country if none of them can find any work here. You already have all the laws you need to reduce illegal immigration significantly or eliminate it permanently. All you lack is the political will to enforce the law against your corporate cronies.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home