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COLUMN: Congress has failed in the immigration control issue

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:06 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 18, 2010

CLARIFICATION: Harry Reid was the Senate majority leader in 2007. A previous version of this column did not clearly state when he took over that position.

Although pushed to the back burner by the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the illegal immigration issue is not going away. The Arizona legislature's tough anti-illegal immigrant bill was signed into law in April by Gov. Jan Brewer, triggering a firestorm of both criticism and applause across the country.

As written and signed, the law appears to be on safe Constitutional ground in that it penalizes only that which is already a federal crime. Contrary to the caterwauling of the most vociferous opponents, it does not give law enforcement officers carte blanche to stop suspects on suspicion of illegal status but rather for probable cause for unrelated offenses. As it is routine for an officer to ask for identification of individuals so halted, a failure to produce some may lead to asking for proof of citizenship.

In any statute, there is opportunity for misapplication of the law to circumvent its intent. Nevertheless, the automatic assumption that the Arizona police will use it as a mandate for racial profiling is neither fair nor helpful. Equally inappropriate was the knee-jerk condemnation of Arizona by the administration's leading law enforcement officers, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano — both of whom were forced to admit having never read the statute.

It is not yet apparent who will be the political winners and losers in this tag team brawl — the only certainty being that the present unseemly and stentorian rhetoric coming fron from both sides has accomplished nothing other than exacerbating the divide. Yes, illegal immigration is a serious dilemma; however, it is neither new nor one which will solve itself. There is but one viable solution — adults must emerge as Democratic and Republican Party leaders and engineer the serious compromises to fix that which is broken.

In 2006, President George W. Bush proposed and supported a rational guest worker program, a logical beginning to negotiate and compromise for meaningful legislation. This effort to satisfy federal responsibility in immigration control was sabotaged by a coalition of unlikely bedfellows — radio talk show hosts who galvanized an audience to protest "amnesty" to their legislators and those allied with organized labor who forced gutting the guest worker provisions. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lost interest in the bill *the next year and pulled the measure prematurely.

It should be obvious to anyone whose IQ is at or near room temperature that the Democrats are playing to the Hispanic vote and the Republicans are courting the anti-amnesty crowd. It should also be abundantly clear that kicking this worn-out political football is counterproductive– to the point of being childish. The notion of a magic potion eradicating the ills of a hundred plus years of benign neglect is almost as silly as the belief that angry posturing and assigning blame will somehow end the oil spill in the Gulf.

Even the most vociferous advocates have grasped the utter folly of the logistic and operational impossibility of rounding up the 12 million or more undocumented immigrants and sending them home. Not only are many firmly established in the business community and in the labor force, but hundreds of thousands arrived here as children and have no other place to call home. If anything fits the category of "too hard," mass deportation is on that skyline.

"Secure the border" is the solution echoed by many and encouraged by the conservative talk show hosts. A secure border is an admirable aim, but not one of these vocal advocates has the slightest notion of what is required in funding, manpower, material and electronic surveillance to achieve that goal. Historical precedents range from the Cold War watch towers, anti-personnel mines, barbed wire and armed sentries of East Germany to the Great Wall of China and our own recent Secure Border Initiative, which has cost nearly a billion dollars with little to show for this pilot system.

The United States will never adopt the East German model for obvious reasons, nor is erection of a border fence a viable option. The projected cost in billions of taxpayer dollars, the years required to complete the barrier and the manpower requirements to secure this barricade are prohibitive — a fence is only as effective as the human surveillance so provided.

If Congress has failed its responsibility in immigration control is no longer a question. Republicans and democrats alike are culpable in the failure to address immigration reform to a logical conclusion in 2006 — those four years lost can neither be retrieved nor pardoned. Control of the borders and who comes and goes is neither a democrat or republican problem, it is a national issue to be solved by the federal government.

Do we have the legislative and executive leadership to ignore the irrational rhetoric of the far right, the shameless pandering for votes of the left, the veiled threats of labor or of other special interests to correct the political negligence and expedience that has prolonged this situation? Or must we purge the incumbents to find those with the moral courage to make it right?

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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Comments

Emma Parker June 8, 2010 | 9:06 a.m.

When the situation gets out of control, only reactionary, strict measures can work. This is the situation of Arizona. It's too late for comprehensive immigration reform, it must have been done at least 3-5 years ago...Arizona Go!!!!!!

People, please, share your thoughts on http://immigration.civiltalks.com/

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 9, 2010 | 10:59 a.m.

You're right, the Congress has failed on this issue. Cheap labor is like a drug and businesses will do anything to get their fix. Walls, troops, or a moat around this country won't matter as long as there are vegetables to be picked, lawns to be mowed, chickens to be processed, restaurant tables to be bussed, dishes to be washed, and scoundrels willing to exploit this population. The cheap labor these lawbreakers provide will be protected by scofflaw business owners. I find it sad that we focus so much on the immigrants and not the cheap labor practices of this shadow economy. Every time these immigrants are paid less than minimum wage - they are victims of a crime. It seems to me that it's not exclusively the fault of the supply - consumers demand cheap products and businesses demand cheap labor. And we get it by illegally exploiting this vulnerable group.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 9, 2010 | 5:09 p.m.

Gregg, your red herring about exploiting illegals won't stand up. you will not find a single major news source story about illegals being paid below minimum wage. You won't find a government report documenting illegals being paid below minimum wage. A Federal Reserve Report obtained by ABC news states such.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/IndustryI...

You won't find a single government raid of a business hiring illegals where one of the charges is that the workers were being paid below minimum wage.

Now if you can find MAJOR news sources (not just somebody's blog/website) outlining such, or a record of a government charging an employer with such, please post it here.

Nowhere in the constitution does it provide for employers to control the border. That's the job of the federal government. If the federal government were doing its job, employers wouldn't even have to think about checking documentation. And all their workers would be fluent in English, the crime rate would go down, the burden on our schools would ease, the lineup at the emergency rooms would
disappear, etc. etc.

(Report Comment)
Dave Francis June 9, 2010 | 8:17 p.m.

They have all publicly released adverse remarks against the hurting state of Arizona. A state overwhelmed by criminal aliens and people who are stealing jobs and feeding off the dwindling treasury. California--The refuge illegal alien state have wasted more time boycotting their neighboring state of Arizona, instead of emptying the crowded classrooms of illegal alien children, the overrun emergency rooms--free to foreigners, but not to citizens-residents who are forever harassed by debt collectors and being sued in court. Our country is already crippled from the massive financial bailouts and the invasion from across the Southern border and every other ghetto in the world. We cannot allow this to continue--we must put an end to it, by removing all incumbents, career politicians who have sold their souls for money, position and power. It seems that mostly illegal workers and families are making an exodus from Arizona? My guess they will be heading for the Liberal inundated state of CALIFORNIA--with bogus ID cards so they can join the rest in fraudulently benefiting from the easy welfare offices.

THEY CAME TO WASHINGTON ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE. BUT MOST TURN THEIR BACK ON THE REGULAR PEOPLE, ONCE THEY REACH THEIR GOAL. Everything is part of the massive cornucopia of the 20 to 30 million illegal aliens and families squatting here. In April you pay your taxes, not aware that your wages are being garnished to support millions of illegal foreigners. The financial expenditures to fight wars in other nations, would not drain our bank accounts if we were not forced to pay for illegal immigration? The Tea Party is not a Republican fortress, but a conservative organization that wants an end to illegal immigration and the costs involved. A message was flashed around the country on June the 8th, that incumbency is damned--that new people should only apply? Look at your lawmakers immigration records at NumbersUSA and decide who is emptying your wallet.

(Report Comment)
Dave Francis June 9, 2010 | 8:18 p.m.

CLEAR OUT WASHINGTON

Every state should follow the policing law of Arizona? THEY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO FIGHT BACK, AGAINST THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION INVASION.

Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid standing on the Senate floor this morning knows his number is up? He praised his Republican challenger for the Nevada Senate seat, Sharron Angle. November will soon be here and I will bombard the airways, letting people comprehend that Sen. Reid turned on the American people, when he started his pro-amnesty campaign. Reid, like all incumbents need to be taught a lesson, that if you switch sides, the sword of Damocles will descend and remove you from office, so you can do no more ill will against the people who pay your exorbitant salary. Napolitano our Homeland Security Secretary, Nancy Pelosi, Holder, Sen. Barbara Boxer and the whole nest of vipers must be brought down. Their alliances with corporate welfare, Wall Street and a whole compendium of open border zealots are leading us towards a precipice called illegal alien --AMNESTY.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 10, 2010 | 11:23 a.m.

Don,
You focus on the criminal laborers and not the criminal employers. You bleat about the former and ignore the latter.
Congress has failed on immigration reform, like your friend suggests. Our border is still unsecure, but you won't even mention the shadow economy of cheap-labor capitalists. A junkie will find a way to get his fix. It's not just the wages - it's the working conditions.
I spent 15 minutes and found lots of articles. No, I won't post them. You do your own work.
Finally, I don't think the news division of Disney Corp. is particularly authoritative.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller June 10, 2010 | 4:55 p.m.

To label all employers who hire illegals as criminal is the easy way out; however, it is far from accurate and dodges at least two issues. First, does your ordinary, garden variety small business operator have the capability to acertain the validity of the identification provided by the worker in this day of easy computer forgeries? Second, rather than cheap labor, in most instances the issue is finding people who will actually report for work, perform an honest 8 hour day and show up the next day. Finally, the finding of "lots of articles" to support a preordained position is hardly research. If one is to make an credible accusation, one should have hard evidence to support it.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 10, 2010 | 7:06 p.m.

Gregg, I focused on both. I didn't find any criminal employers paying under minimum wage. You may have found lots of articles, but you found nothing as outlined by my parameters above. I'll state again. You can't find MAJOR news sources that show employers paying below minimum wage. Well, I did find one of a Democrat New York Senate Majority Leader who was paying well below minimum wage for people working at his gyms. Other than that, there was nothing.

Again, you find several major news outlets and government documents showing employers paying under minimum wage and post the stories right here. Do that and I'll concede you are right. If you can't do that, then you have nothing other than bluster. As for News Division of Disney, they seem to have won alot of emmys for thier news over the years: http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=Agi_...

Gregg, it's time for you to man up and present your case with facts. The jury of the readers will decide which of us is more credible with our presentation of facts.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 10, 2010 | 8:37 p.m.

Wow.
The best way to deal with a bully is not to engage, but I'll engage the good colonel.

Col. Miller - you're a better writer knowing that someone like me is out here. I don't doubt your integrity; I cast doubt on the credibility of your opinions.
With respect to this opinion - I agree with you! Congress has fallen down on the job. Furthermore, your article doesn't pretend to address employers. I was simply adding another perspective to your opinion. Your little Texas friend, he attacks my masculinity...but I simply laugh. I laugh because what he thinks of me is of no consequence.
The criminals that are here are consequential.
The criminals that hire them are consequential.

You do your own research - educate yourself, interview some. But fair is fair - "lots" meant 5 articles after a few minutes. I may have mis-stated myself.

(Report Comment)
KEN GERINGER June 10, 2010 | 8:39 p.m.

Most illegals are just like you and me. They want to work and raise their children. Some are not. what should we do with them? Why not catch them and get rid of them? Every day I see and interact with people I know are not like me, in that they don't speak like me, and have other world views. They, and I, are not doing anything anyone else wouldn't do. So, should we allow anyone that can get here to have all the benifits of citizenship? Should we hunt down all the others?

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 10, 2010 | 10:49 p.m.

Wow Gregg. Back on Dec 15th, you asked the Colonel this:

"Remind me, Colonel, what are your environmental credentials? Where did you study? You're an economist? Armchair meteorologist? Statistician?
Why should we listen to you?
These are legitimate questions."

Mine too are all legitimate questions and statements of fact. You on the other hand, when asked to provide authoritative backup to your position, again, merely bluster, yell bully, and run away from the light shining on you. You have no facts and just fabricate nonsense to bolster your indefensible position. I would say you are a prime candidate for the Obama administration at the very highest level.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 13, 2010 | 1:48 p.m.

Only for those who wish to educate themselves on how employers exploit immigrant labor, the willfully ignorant...may simply move along -

From the National Council of Churches -
http://www.ncccusa.org/publicwitness/mto...

Academic study from UCLA -
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/issr/csup/upl...
Less than 2% of day laborers claim they make less than minimum wage, but 49% claim that they have been denied wages.

From the New York Times, 2008 -
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/opinio...

Fact sheet from a progressive think-tank that references several academic sources -
http://www.drummajorinstitute.org/librar...

From a free-market think-tank -
http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured...

From the conservative World Net Daily -
http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=85432

From an LA daily -
http://www.metnews.com/articles/2010/inm...

Here's one of a retailer settling for $11 million for violating labor laws including wage standards. It's from 2005 -
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,1508...

Tried to give a fishing pole, but my own obstinancy required me to give fish.

Now this could be a "copy & paste" confrontation, but it needn't be.
When I was young and came across a word that I didn't know, my mother would tell me to first "sound it out." She tried to get me to do it myself. Sometimes I would succeed; sometimes I would not. She would let me sweat it out of awhile then come to my rescue. If I was intransigent, she would not assist me. She was strong. I guess I'm weak.
We really do need immigration reform in this country. But it seems to me our borders will never be secure until we punish the cheap-labor addicts. Illegal drugs still get across the border because there is a market for it - same with illegal labor.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 13, 2010 | 7:46 p.m.

Okay, two major news sources in Greg's post

From the New York Times, 2008 -
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/opinio......

Here's one of a retailer settling for $11 million for violating labor laws including wage standards. It's from 2005 -
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,1508......

The first is a NY Times editorial piece. Not a news story.
Nowhere in it does it allege wages paid under minimum wage.

The second is a Fox news story involving WalMart. The violations do not involve being paid below minimum wage. They do involve failure to pay overtime. WalMart is not the violator, but was held accountable for not ensuring the companies doing janitorial work were paying properly.

Greg, the others are not major news sources. You've given examples claiming difficult working conditions, but no major news stories to back them up. No government documents showing under minimum wage payments. By the way, many managers working 60 to 70 hours a week and then working more at home, when they total their hours, are paid very close to minimum wage with no overtime.

Anybody who doesn't like their working conditions in this country is certainly free to find employment elsewhere, start their own company, return to their native land, you name it. But I see nothing from any major news source or government agency in your response to back you up.

Gregg, try looking at the owners of the companies and see who they voted for.
You can begin with Bill and Hillary's friend who owns Tyson Chicken. Here is a Time Magazine NEWS story:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/articl...

But no allegations of under minimum wage payments here either.

Work on it.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 14, 2010 | 3:10 p.m.

The UCLA study found that 49% of day laborers had, at least 1 day in the last 2 months, been denied wages.
$0 per hour is less than minimum wage. Even if only for 1 day.
Regarding why there are no major news stories about this fact...I don't have a clue. However, I don't think that is the only metric of reality - nor is a single study. But I will cast my lot with the exploited over the exploiters - Matt. 25:40 "...'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "
I welcome your closing remarks then move to table.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 14, 2010 | 5:59 p.m.

Matt. 22:21 They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

They need to obey the immigration laws first. Then the problem disappears.

(Report Comment)

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