In Aug. 2007, the Bush administration announced that it would try something no modern administration has succeeded in doing: enforcing the immigration laws. More specifically, the administration wants to institute serious fines for any employer who fails to fire workers lacking legitimate Social Security numbers. If Bush’s plan is ever implemented, it will require the sacking of millions.
Don’t hold your breath on this one gang. The administration is trying to get at one of America’s favorite instances of tolerated lawbreaking: our de facto guest-worker program, created by the lazisse-faire immigration laws. And while no one will admit it, our current system is popular enough that his effort seems destined to fail.
For the last several decades, internal enforcement of the immigration laws has been, by and large, sporadic and symbolic. In 2004, the number of fines issued against domestic employers for employing illegal immigrants was a grand total of three.
Politicians usually prefer to talk about “securing our borders,” a method of stopping illegal immigration that has great advantages for all concerned. It sounds tough. It’s easy to fund. And it does not deprive us of any of the benefits of illegal immigration, simply because it doesn’t work. In fact, it’s such a laughably ineffective way to deter illegal immigration that it almost seems designed to fail; subsequently, we would argue that this way of deterring illegal immigrants from the simple “walk over plan” is visibly a failed interaction.
The enforcement math at play here is simple and mainly uncontested. There are millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, millions more people who might enter, and millions of potential weak spots along the borders. These numbers make border enforcement a fruitless way of trying to “stop” illegal immigration.
One particular element in the pursuit of failure comes from the number of elementary level schools that are on the U.S. side of the border. Having an arrangement such as this has ended up providing transportation for students from both sides of the border as well as day care, and the growing outcry about certain rights that illegal’s seems to think they have.
Many illegal immigrants get to the United States on visas they overstay, bypassing the border altogether. Border enforcement can even be counterproductive, because it discourages those illegal immigrants who find themselves inside the country from ever trying to leave. And even when border agents catch people, it cannot be anything but a system of “catch and release,” unless the United States is willing to open a Guantanamo prison complex the size of Rhode Island.
Studies and statistics suggest that the net impact of border enforcement on total immigration rates has been something close to zero—making it more like a cultural subsidy than law enforcement. Despite the great increases in border enforcement in the 1990s and 2000s, there has been no measurable effect on the rate at which the illegal immigration population in the United States is growing. It is the classic example of applying a teaspoon solution to an ocean problem.
So why has the United States chosen a method—border enforcement—that’s less effective than zealous domestic prosecution? If we thought illegal immigration was really a bad thing—if, say, the problem were the unlawful arrival not of workers, but of disease-bearing chickens—the government might rapidly deploy the most effective form of enforcement, with the support of all parts of society.
If all this is true, isn’t creating a legalized guest-worker program the right thing to do? That’s where political failure kicks in, for the political discussion of immigration policy is both inflamed and insane. Immigration policy is perhaps the strongest example of the ways in which tolerated lawbreaking is used to make the legal system closer to what lies in the economic interests of the nation but cannot be achieved by rational politics.
As much as a solidified guest-worker program does portend to have it all for all workers from housekeeping to restaurant work whilst including construction jobs, light manufacturing employment we still will always be with this overwhelming problem. Greed. Currently the average U.S. worker sees their services somewhere in the $10 to 13 dollar range. Imagine the civil unrest with guest-workers and citizens competing for the same positions.
The majority of this article originally was started by Tim Wu an author affiliated with Slate Magazine, under the title of “American Lawbreaking” Insofar as we have been doing our research on the Open Border’s Project, Mr. Wu’s article has almost it all. What he may have forgotten or left out we gladly entered it in. Thank you.