Thursday, August 09, 2007

Let's see how tough works...

The failure of the immigration reform effort has snowballed into a truly vigorous enforcement alternative. Employers especially will be struggling with much stricter record-keeping and compliance issues.
Critics of the proposal -- ranging from farmers to restaurant owners to immigrant advocates -- predict the tougher approach will lead to massive layoffs of both legal and illegal workers, potentially crippling some industries that rely heavily on that low-paid workforce.

Supporters say it will cut into rampant illegal hiring that has been highlighted in recent workplace raids across the country, another step in a federal strategy to show a tougher face to the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

"The rule will be very specific and very hard on employers who choose not to comply," said Laura Keehner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security who declined to say when the new regulations would go into effect. "If they choose not to follow the law, there will be consequences." [More]
The press is just starting to cover these developments, and quite frankly I have no idea how successful these efforts will be. I do know readers and viewers get really worked up about immigration and like the presidential candidates, seem to feel arguing for stern policing as the easiest answer.
Senator John McCain, trying to keep his presidential hopes aloft by jettisoning his courage and good sense, has leapt to the enforcement barricades, joining Senators Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham in sponsoring a bill that is essentially a Minuteman’s to-do list of fence-building and punishments. He has shamefully repudiated his commitment to giving illegal immigrants a way to get right with the country. Senator Arlen Specter, meanwhile, wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post titled “A Less Ambitious Approach to Immigration,” in which he endorsed the creation of a permanent noncitizen immigrant underclass, saying it is the best we can hope for until “a more hospitable America” emerges. [More]
But as I argued about RW corn refuges in the latest issue of Top Producer, America doesn't work because we're really good at apprehending bad guys. America works because the overwhelming majority of citizens choose to obey the law because they find the rules reasonable and no big sacrifice to comply with.

But more than the effectiveness is the likelihood we shall find out something similar to what we have discovered to our despair in Iraq: we can't muscle the world or even our own country to meet arbitrary standards of conduct just because a handful of people in Washington or some state capital say so. This delusion of enforcement ability flies in the face of power flowing downward via better information and technology.

Even the vituperative defense of English as our national language shows a lack of cultural confidence. Enforcement will not ensure its supremacy in the US - it is the unique communication superiority of English, especially in science, that makes it the language of choice around the world. Also the fact that English speakers control so much of the world's wealth. You don't need language cops to make that point.

My point of view lost. I freely admit this and will do everything required of me to comply without carping (much). But I am also preparing for consequences as any prudent observer should. Some of the fallout may kneecap high-value agriculture and further cripple construction. But the larger effect will be to create, I believe, an even more subterranean underclass of workers for an economy that is barely able to supply labor now.

We will also likely create some serious headaches for people who think they will not be touched by this issue.
The consequences will be severe. Industries dependent on immigrant workers, like restaurants, construction and farms, may face labor shortages. Fired workers will be driven into the underground economy. Companies worried about being potentially liable for firings based on bad information may shy away from hiring even legal immigrants.

And it's not just undocumented workers who will be dragged into the maw. Social Security estimates that there are inconsistencies with the records of 13 million American citizens, due to clerical errors, name changes and spelling mistakes. They too may face dismissal if they can't straighten out their records. [More]
Or maybe we'll choose to enjoy a recession instead. Or simply cede entire industries to off-shore.
The pace of recent U.S. economic growth would have been impossible without immigration. Since 1990, immigrants have contributed to job growth in three main ways: They fill an increasing share of jobs overall, they take jobs in labor-scarce regions, and they fill the types of jobs native workers often shun. The foreign-born make up only 11.3 percent of the U.S. population and 14 percent of the labor force. But amazingly, the flow of foreign-born is so large that immigrants currently account for a larger share of labor force growth than natives [More]
One outcome seems very probable to me. Our country takes one more step toward an admittedly distant target of a police state. (Congress just hastened this process) This effort will require more police-types, jails, attorneys, etc. It will clog our criminal justice system and foster an enormous and hideously expensive and permanently entrenched bureaucracy. It will corrode trust and further contempt for the rule of law by placing too many people in the wretched position of keeping their business afloat and helping wretchedly poor employees they have befriended.

And in the end, I believe we will gain little or nothing. Our economy is far too wealthy and amoral not to invest heavily in enforcement avoidance efforts, and those despised illegal immigrants are far more tenacious than many suspect. Many of us have simply forgotten how incredibly resourceful truly desperate humans can be. In the worst case, we could set back economic growth and fuel serious inflation for years. (And don't even ponder about how much oil we get from Mexico and how that future problem will complicate this issue.)

Nor will we un-diversify our population and preserve our Anglo-European majority. That battle has not only been lost, it is slipping away faster than ever thanks to simple demographics.

It strikes me as breathtakingly inefficient. But then, I lost the debate.

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