Both sides claim victory in the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Arizona immigration enforcement law. But here’s the bottom line: This ruling is a huge boost for 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans who can’t get jobs in construction, manufacturing, maintenance, repair, service and transportation because those jobs are currently held by 7 million illegal workers.
Although the press focused on three provisions the court blocked, the Arizona law actually contained 14 provisions and 11 of those provisions are still standing after multiple court challenges. And the heart of the bill, the one that allows state officials to ask about immigration status, passed the court unanimously. That’s right. Unanimously.
Receiving scant attention in the media was an earlier Arizona bill, also challenged by the Obama administration but upheld by the Supreme Court last year, that required all employers in Arizona to use E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic system for determining work eligibility. Together, these two rulings from the Supreme Court provide states with the legal structure to frame enforcement policies to protect American jobs. This ruling also provides vindication for five other states with laws similar to Arizona’s, also facing a barrage of litigation, and it provides a blueprint for at least six other states looking to pass Arizona-style legislation. An estimated 20 states already mandate at least some use of E-Verify.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, this fight between states and the feds isn’t because Congress failed to pass “immigration reform.” We’re having this fight because the federal government has refused to enforce immigration laws like all other laws: impartially and decisively. For decades, the government has responded to pressure from ethnic and business lobbies rewarding both employers and workers who cheated the system.
Tolerating a federal government that picks and chooses which laws it wants to enforce and which laws it doesn’t is the road to political corruption that allows elites buy the government they want. Like bribing the policeman to look the other way.
Beneath the fight over enforcement is an unexamined question of tremendous significance: Should America regulate immigration, as we did in the past, as other nations do, balancing the needs of employers and workers, setting limits and enforcing those limits? Or, should we deregulate immigration, go for open borders and allow market forces to decide how many people come?
Open borders is a radical idea. And market forces are potentially huge. For example, more than five billion people have incomes less than the average income in Mexico. We can’t possibly accept everyone who wants to “make a better life.” That means we need to set a limit. And there’s the rub. How do we enforce it?
For two decades, America’s political elite have been infatuated with arguments for deregulating our economy and trusting in “the market”. And like feeding a baby, one spoon at a time, we’ve been fed a plan for our future which came in three parts: 1. deregulated trade (free trade agreements); 2. deregulated banking (what a nightmare!); and 3. deregulated immigration (open borders). In short, the free flow of goods, money, and people without pesky government regulation.
Ppen borders was never discussed with the American people. Yet we slide into it with every expansion in legal visas, multiple amnesties, and the refusal of federal officials to enforce our laws. Corporate money funds a barrage of litigation from ethnic and civil liberties groups, suing any state, public official, or town that tries to enforce immigration laws at the local level. And these suits are always brought in the name of “protecting civil liberties” or “preventing racial profiling.”
But there’s a difference between charges and fact. Consider, for example, the 287(g) program. Activists charged that this cooperative program, which allows state law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials, was “intimidating” and led to profiling. The Governmental Accountability Office studied the program and found no such thing. Consider the case of Prince William County, Va., a D.C. suburb that adopted a law similar to Arizona’s. Activists charged profiling, yet a two-year study failed to find a single case. And despite the near-universal charge that Arizona’s law will inevitably lead to profiling, the Supreme Court wisely concluded that such a charge was premature, and that we should wait for some evidence.
As enforcement tightens, we will undoubtedly hear more claims of profiling and intimidation. Let’s hope journalists will rely on facts rather than unsubstantiated claims from self interested, corporate funded ethnic and civil liberties groups.
Jonette Christian is the head of Mainers for Sensible Immigration Reform. She lives in Holden.