Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Immigration Policy

A New York Times opinion piece came out on the new focus of the Obama administration concerning undocumented workers.

Last week, immigration enforcement policy shifted a little. The administration issued guidelines for Immigration and Customs Enforcement that place a new emphasis on prosecuting employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

That is a good idea, and a break from the Bush administration method — mass raids to net immigrant workers while leaving their bosses alone. The raids were tuned to the theatrics of the poisoned immigration debate, using heavy weapons, dogs and helicopters to spread the illusion that something was getting fixed.

That Bush was something else, wasn't he? I thought hindsight was supposed to be 20/20? How can there still be people who claim Bush was a good president? This one single example, which is such a typical description of the Bush policies, says it all.

The New York Times goes on to say that however improved the Obama approach might be, it too will fail to bring about the desired result. By targeting employers, the undocumented workers suffer almost as badly, at least as far as losing their jobs goes. Other employers would probably get rid of their immigrant workers in fear.

The decision to adjust the policy on raids seems sensibly motivated. But we agree with immigration and labor experts like Professor Jennifer Gordon of Fordham Law School, who sees the new guidelines as a smarter version of a bad idea. Far better, she says, for the government to redouble enforcement of laws like the minimum wage, the right to organize, and health and safety protections. This would reduce the incentive to hire the undocumented, and raise standards for all workers. It would not end up devastating immigrant families, as raids do. In times like these, that would be a step toward immigration reform that all workers could support.

What's your opinion? I like what Prof. Gordon has to say. I'd go further, though. I'd first grant a complete amnesty on all aspects of illegal immigration. If people are in the United States, I say it no longer should matter how they arrived. Then, I would push for all those nice reforms around the workplace.

What do you think? Should being an illegal immigrant be a crime? Should being an undocumented person be a crime? Aren't many of them making huge sacrifices and taking huge risks for their families? Doesn't that make them very much like the "family values" folks who persecute them and call for their arrests?

Please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Other employers would probably get rid of their immigrant workers in fear.

    The enforcement of laws is _supposed_ to make others less willing to break those laws. :)

    Should being an illegal immigrant be a crime?

    Of _course_ it should. Why on earth would we _have_ immigration laws if breaking them wasn't a crime? This is like asking if breaking gun laws should be a crime.

    I'm all for reforming our immigration laws, just like I'm all for decriminalizing marijuana and dismantling some of our useless, burdensome gun restrictions. But Making policies of neglecting to enforce certain laws we don't like rather than fixing them is insanity.

    Illegal aliens broke our immigration laws. They're criminals. That some of them had great motives is irrelevant. Law enforcement has an obligation to enforce the laws, whether or not they or we like those laws.

    Reform the laws. Make it substantially easier for people to immigrate to (and emigrate from, for that matter) the US. I'm completely on board with that. I love the diversity of US culture, and want to see modern immigrants get in at least as easily as my Irish ancestors did. But until those changes are made, the government has the obligation to enforce the law to the best of its ability, no matter how much we may sympathize with the criminals.

  2. Wow, you are a law and order guy, Michael.

    I'm with you on the need to change the immigration laws, but I say in the meantime we turn a blind eye on these law-breakers.

  3. I don't think law enforcement should decide what is and isn't legal. We're "a nation of laws, not a nation of men", and our elected representatives decide what those laws are, not the whims of police administrators.

    We've talked before about the amount of discretion I think cops and judges should have, and it's not very much.

    I want as few laws as possible, and for the government to leave people alone as much as possible, but once we make a law, it's the cops' job to uphold that law, whether or not it's popular. They're the hired help, not the arbiters of right and wrong.

    I want my rights protected even when they're unpopular, so I can't in good conscience applaud when the police ignore laws I _don't_ like.

  4. Yes it should be a crime to enter the country illegally.

    If you want to come to the U.S. we have a system by which to do so.

    Hell, my grandparents did it, as did my great grandparents on my fathers side. Why do immigrants now believe they deserve special treatment.

    And as Mike said, why bother having the laws if we're not going to enforce them?