April 27, 2006

Immigration Again

by PG

I've very late in response to Hei Lun's assessment of my post on immigration, but in my defense, I thought one of the ideas I had for enforcement was too crazy. He said, "PG suggests tough enforcement against employers who are found to have employees in the workplace without a valid Social Security number, but there are plenty of jobs illegals do now that don't have a traditional 'workplace' that the feds can check. Is the government going to do spot checks in suburban neighborhoods on dark-skinned people mowing lawns, in rich neighborhoods on the maids, on sweatshops that the feds don't even know exists?" I agree that individuals, who employ undocumented workers for household services that leave behind no trace except the mowed lawn and washed clothes, will be difficult to track down, but I doubt that this is the largest source of employment for illegal immigrants. And as it turns out, people who are working legally are happy to rat out their illegitimate co-workers -- or at least try to extract treble damages after the fact:

Former workers at Mohawk Industries, a Georgia-based carpet company, brought a class-action suit against the corporation under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. RICO is the 1970 statute whose principal object was fighting organized crime. But Mohawk, like Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart, has not been accused of operating speak-easies or shaking down the local dry cleaner. The criminal "enterprise" that it's accused of conducting is contracting with outside recruiting companies to hire illegal immigrants and then cook their work papers. The former employees claim that this both violated immigration laws and artificially depressed their wages.
Here I'd thought the Minutemen were anomalies, that Normal People just didn't care that much about folks who were doing them no obvious harm. I underestimated the average American; apparently people can discern that undocumented labor is hurting them, and are ready to take action even at the cost of alienating their employer.

Seriously, I think that the federal government should encourage Americans to report on employers of illegal immigrants. Turn in your sister-in-law who bragged that she's getting cheap childcare. Have neighborhood associations mandate that all lawn care workers must be registered with the association in order to mow lawns there. This is a pervasive problem that touches every aspect of our economy, and as long as Americans find that the benefits of undocumented labor outweigh the never-realized cost of getting into trouble, people will continue to immigrate here in order to work.

I suppose some people come here to live on the government dime, as the most strident conservatives claim, but presumably the government ought to be able to detect those people itself. They must not be the lawn care types, as it's extremely difficult for healthy young men of any citizenship status to live on the government dime unless they're doing it behind bars. Able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 without dependents can receive food stamps for three months of every three year span. Government programs provide for the elderly, disabled, minors and the caretakers of minors, but perhaps these opponents of illegal immigration know of drastic expansions of Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and TANF that I do not. Even legal immigrants have more severe restrictions on their eligibility than citizens do; illegal immigrants are not supposed to receive any aid except in emergency. The only major exception is public schooling, which I regard as a benefit to the polity as much as to the individual. I'm happy to pay taxes to send kids through Head Start so fifty years from now, they can work in my nursing home instead of stealing my car.

April 27, 2006 03:54 PM | TrackBack
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