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Upcoming debate on illegal immigration
by Tom Shuford


January 06, 2005

Dear Editor:

The stakes are high in the coming immigration debate.  An informed public will improve the odds of a good outcome.  Anyone who can find Google and put quotation marks around two or three words can find the reports below.  These offer rich insight on the impact of the President's immigration policies on America's families, communities, and governments:
1) The Center for Immigration Studies reports that 9/11 and an economic slowdown did not slow illegal immigration.  From 2000 to 2004, 2 million more illegal aliens took residence in the U. S. bringing the total to ten million. ("Immigration enforcement grows weaker," Washington Times, Nov. 25).  A financial investigation by Bear Stearns Asset Management, however, puts the illegal alien count at 18-20 million ("20 Million Illegal Aliens?" Michelle Malkin, Jan. 3)
2) What is the impact of persistent high rates of illegal immigration on county budgets? A budget analyst for Santa Barbara County, now retired, gives an insider look.  ("Immigration Moments That Changed a California Budget Analyst's Mind,", Dec. 16). 
3) How do President Bush and Congress keep cheap, illegal labor pouring over the border? Nonexistent enforcement of employer sanctions.  The San Diego Union-Tribune provides stats and analysis.  ("On the Payroll: Illegal Immigrants," San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 7).
4) Would President Bush's proposed "temporary" guest-workers return to Mexico?  Yes, to bring their families.  Quoting from "The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers," Foreign Affairs magazine (November/December, 2001):
"In many countries, under many types of government, and across many time periods, experiences with guest worker programs have led to an overwhelming and simple consensus among those who have studied the issue: there is nothing more permanent than temporary workers."
The "Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers" is a concise history of how a vast illegal workforce, paid wages far below U. S. standards, became an entrenched feature of American life.
5) What does surging illegal immigration mean for schools?  A veteran Los Angeles teacher describes her classroom.  ("Immigration and Schools, Part 2,"  What is the impact on middle-class American families with children?  ("Bad Schools, Immigration, And The Great Middle-Class Massacre,", Sept. 28, 2003)
6) Are there security risks from heavy alien traffic?   See Time Magazine's "Bordering On Nukes? New accounts from al-Qaeda to attack the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction" (Nov. 14).  Also, the San Francisco Chronicle's "Unthinkable? An attack on an American city by terrorists armed with a small nuclear device is an even bet within a decade, some experts say" (Nov. 20).
"Who Left the Door Open?" Time Magazine's Sept. 12 classic portrait of our chaotic southern border by two-time Pulitzer-Prize-winning duo Donald Barlett and James Steele, can still be found online.
The latest test of the President's and Congress' will to rein in illegal immigration was the intelligence reform bill. House Republicans passed provisions barring states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens.  The Senate, with the President's blessing, deleted those provisions. The House will reintroduce them in January. See "House to see new bill on immigration security" (Washington Times, December 9)
Tom Shuford, retired teacher
Lenoir, NC - USA



Most of the reports above are, in their own way, stunning.  But perhaps the best short explanation of the immigration phenomenon is "On the payroll: illegal immigrants."  I've provided summary notes below:
On the payroll: illegal immigrants [Notes & Link]
Enforcement is focused on border, not business
By Leslie Berestein
November 7, 2004
THE IMPORTANCE OF A WORD: "KNOWINGLY": "The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to more than 3 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. It also made it illegal to knowingly hire undocumented workers, establishing penalties that include fines of as much as $10,000 per worker and six months in prison for violators. But the operative word is knowingly. While job applicants must present identification proving their eligibility to work in the United States, employers are not required to verify its authenticity."
Philip Martin, a University of California Davis expert on immigration and labor issues: "In 1986, we basically said that you are off the hook if you get documents, which can easily be forged. We didn't quite say that, but it came close."
SUBCONTRACTORS: LAYERED PROTECTION FOR EMPLOYERS: THE CLEANING INDUSTRY EXAMPLE: "The cleaning industry is rife with subcontractors who provide a layer of immunity for their clients. After immigration authorities found more than 250 contracted janitors working illegally in Wal-Mart stores last year, Wal-Mart officials denied knowledge of any wrongdoing, even though several of the company's cleaning contractors had admitted to hiring undocumented workers in the past."
99% DECLINE IN FINES IMPOSED ON EMPLOYERS FOR BREAKING IMMIGRATION LAWS SINCE 1992: "Nationwide, work-site enforcement has declined significantly since the early 1990s, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics. Fines imposed on employers for breaking the law dwindled from 1,063 orders in 1992 to only 13 in 2002. Work-site arrests, warnings issued to employers and cases completed also dropped off sharply during this time."
TOOTHLESS EMPLOYER SANCTIONS: THE ONLY KIND CONGRESS WILL ACCEPT: "Some immigration experts say enforcement is weak because lawmakers find it more politically acceptable to reinforce the border than to crack down on businesses."
Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California San Diego: "Congress was committed to passing a toothless employer sanctions law. It was the only way they could get it through. . . . There was a lot of pressure from business lobbies, from agribusiness, restaurants, hotels."
IN RARE INSTANCES WHEN SANCTIONS ARE IMPOSED, POLITICIANS INTERVENE: "Over the years, politicians have intervened on behalf of a number of employers caught hiring undocumented immigrants. Some employers who have come under fire are generous political contributors, such as Wal-Mart, which has criminal and civil cases pending."
PRESIDENT'S PRIORITIES ARE REFLECTED IN MISERLY BUDGET FOR ENFORCEMENT OF EMPLOYER SANCTIONS: "Last month, President Bush signed a Homeland Security budget for fiscal year 2005 that granted $74 million for additional Border Patrol technology, including $10 million for unmanned aerial drones. Only $5 million was granted to strengthen work-site enforcement, a fraction of the $23 million enhancement initially requested."
PART OF THE SOLUTION: MANDATORY DOCUMENT VERIFICATION ON A FEDERAL DATABASE: "Congress did vote last year to extend a pilot Homeland Security program that allows employers to verify workers' documents on a federal database at no cost. The program, used in California and five other states, is expected to be available nationwide beginning Dec. 1. But participation is strictly voluntary. This is perhaps why only 127 employers in San Diego County use it despite the fact that the program has existed in California since the late 1990s."

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