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Heads I win, tails you lose

Submitted by Pat on Mon, 08/13/2007 - 10:20am

Mickey Kaus at Slate lays the groundwork to claim "heads I win, tails you lose" in the upcoming crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Critics of the "law enforcement, deport them all" philosophy on illegal immigration have long maintained that we clearly have a strong economic need for those immigrants (we'll call this the pro-business side). Supporters of that philosophy argue that there are plenty of Americans willing to do those jobs, if only the wages weren't depressed by all the illegal immigrants (we'll call this the pro-worker side).

To date, the Bush Administration has sided largely with the pro-business side of the debate. Much of the base of the Republican party is on the pro-worker side. Increasing pressure from the base has led the President to announce a new, widespread crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Ought to be a good test, right? We'll see which side is right pretty quick. But not according to Mickey Kaus. Nope, according to him, the pro-worker side is proved right either way:

Is the recently announced Bush crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants

1) a desperate, Lindsey Graham-like make-up call to placate conservatives by enforcing existing laws (a possible precondition to winning some of them over to legalization of illegals) or

2) a Leninesque attempt to heighten the contradictions and create pressure for legalization by demonstrating to business and the media that actually enforcing the existing immigration laws is intolerable?

... If it's option 2, of course, then Homeland Security might intentionally choose to enforce the law in as clumsy, heartless, and lawsuit-inspiring a fashion as possible, in order to create the maximum number of negative headlines.

Got that? If we don't notice any economic problems, then the pro-worker side will claim to be vindicated because they were right all along. But if there are terrible economic consequences, then the pro-worker side will claim to be vindicated because the Bush Administration purposefully tried to screw things up, because all of the Administration officials charged with implementing the new crackdown say that it will, in fact, be a disaster.

Then Kaus creates a new twist that I've not heard before in this debate. Suddenly, he wants to modify the pro-worker argument to say that it's the new illegal hires which are the problem, not the people who have been here for "decades."

For example, wouldn't it be better to focus enforcement on new hires whose Social Security numbers don't match, rather than disruptively forcing the firing of existing workers who may have been here for decades?

Is this an opening in the anti-amnesty front? Can we provide "amnesty" for those who have been here for "decades" without "undermining the rule of law"? What's the cut-off? 20 years? 10? 5? 1?

Kaus is hedging his bets and shifting the position of the anti-immigration crowd now that the Bush Administration is about to do what they have been shrilly demanding that he do for the past several years. The anti-illegal-immigrant faction advocated the policy, they should have the cajones to take responsibility for it, however it comes out.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

You bring up a good point in

You bring up a good point in here: the tension in the Republican party between the wealthy pro-business element that arguably runs the party (cf. Dick Cheney) and the populist, working-class Republicans. This also explains why a lot of Republican legislators who are more in touch with (or who understand that they were elected by) populist Republicans don't support the President's efforts at immigration reform.

UPDATE by Pat: Meeg, thanks for commenting. Your comment didn't appear immediately because we've been forced to place all comments from unregistered users in a moderation queue. If you register, your comments will appear immediately, and as a bonus you won't have to do any math problems to post!

New York is primarily a Democratic State

I don't see the populist working class families rising up to enforce immigration law. There is more to the equation than populists v pro-business. The 15 billion public works and industrial contruction business for 2007 NEEDS more workers and NYC unions in general, did not object to the Amnesty Bill.

Housing woes

I wonder what the connection is between the housing woes coming our way and illegals. One might argue that enforcing existing laws will make it harder for many in mortgage trouble to fix up their homes using cheap labor. With a slow down on new construction, will construction companies focus on reclaiming the residential sector where illegals have flourished? Will crackdowns increase the housing market meltdown? I sense many on the Right think crack downs can become an election issue. The Left sees this as an Hispanic vote getter.

Over the weekend, we saw the arrest of an illegal indicted for the murder of three students in New Jersey. There is an outrage that given the illegal's criminal past, the psycho was allowed bond. The mayor of Newark is claiming this wasn't a race crime as many call for a crack down on illegals arrested. I see a similarity of those bashing Musharraf and those screaming deportation. In both cases, I doubt the consequences of advocated policies will produce their imagined results. Both could lead to our decreased health and security in an effort to score political points..

Indeed. Did I misread this, or is Kaus' analysis and overall

strategy just neck-deep in cynicism?

"In the world you will find tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

John 16:33

Yes, Rafique...

In fact, it veers dangerously close to BDS...

There is already a rise in crime nationally

I can see even more crime brewing as a result of misguided policy. Newark is just one of many places. I think the issue should spur discussion of national I.D. cards and a discourse over what diversity means.

Yes, but...

I'd like to steer this thread clear of the deeper discussion and keep it more focused on the specific issue raised by Kaus and my criticism of his comment.

I don't know enough about

I don't know enough about Kaus or where his ideology and partisanship lie, but it seems that the Dems have been pretty successful playing that fun coin toss game with the Iraq war so why not pull it out again?

After all, first the Dems vote to authorize the war: heads we win (if the war goes well) and tails you lose (war doesn't go well and we say we voted on false pretenses). Then they pulled out the trusty coin again with this: heads we win (insufficient troop levels-we told you so!),tails you lose (send more troops and you're escalating an unpopular war while prolonging the inevitable defeat).

Your observations seem correct

"New" hire crackdowns however, would force old hires to stay with present employers leading to more exploitation of those who have been here a while. This would seem to create two illegal groups. "New" hires will find other types of jobs.


Yeah, but Kaus's cynical take just isn't very interesting or coherent or fair.

Neither is this, really:

The anti-illegal-immigrant faction advocated the policy, they should have the cajones to take responsibility for it, however it comes out.

Lots of folks want comprehensive change, like me. I suppose it's probably accurate to call me "anti-illegal-immigration," but I only hold that position as part of a larger overall desire to make our immigration policies coherent and sensible. And I'm not going to take any blame if the administration implements a bunch of ham-handed half-measures. If they do it stupid, and it comes out badly, that reflects on the admin, not upon the folks who want a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy. Cujones? What takes cujones is to declare that its all on the folks who supported the policy change, regardless of the nature of the implementation.

Seemingly, some "pro-illegal-immigrant" folks may be poised to declare the outcomes a disaster regardless of of the nature of those outcomes. So lets all get some criteria on the table. If tightening down on illegal immigration leads to primarily negative outcomes, I'm willing to acknowledge that. But let's take the time to think about what sore of semi-objecive and measurable outcomes we can monitor. As opposed to say wailing at injustice over tear-jerking anecdotes in the news about families torn apart and so on.

I see your point

but remember, many Democrats are advocating inaction on security and enforcement while claiming they will "protect" illegals from the GOP meanies. Half measures all around when comprehensive measures are needed with amnesty conditional on implementing enforcement and security. Neither side trusts the other while the deportation crowd thinks baby steps of a fence means anything. I remember Republicans telling me Democrats would not be in a position come 2009 to pass a worse The extremes on both sides sunk the Bill (thinking it would favor their political chances) and now we may enter the Left Side world. Will history repeat itself (Bush 1 then Bill, Bush 2 then Hillary)? Strange.

Would it be stranger still, if the ecomomy dives while illegals are turned away from working jobs Americans won't do?

Driving 60 and Throwing it into Reverse

When employers used to inquire about suspicious employee paperwork, they were told in no uncertain terms by the INS that they were not deputies of the INS and in order to not violate anti-discrimination laws, they had to accept on their face the documents presented.

Now, the employers are the front-lines of enforcement [unfunded mandate?]. Why not find another route? Inform the employers and then put the onus on the employee to prove their legality. It would work like this...letters from SSA go out. Employers inform employee of their 90 day window to comply. Worker goes to Dept. of Labor for newly-relaxed H2B Visa. Like the recent Passport sludge, it will take the government forever to sort the mess, but the employer is off-the-hook because the Visa is "applied for". That way, work keeps going, employers have served the government's interests, illegals are queued up for a biometric worker ID and the economy continues to cruise along.

Anything other than that will drop the transmission into the median.

RAA :)

? 201 of the Unfunded

Now, the employers are the front-lines of enforcement [unfunded mandate?].

? 201 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act might apply: "Each agency shall, unless otherwise prohibited by law, assess the effects of Federal regulatory actions on ... the private sector (other than to the extent that such regulations incorporate requirements specifically set forth in law)." And ? 205 of the same requires "before promulgating any rule for which a written statement is required under section 202, the agency shall identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and from those alternatives select the least costly, most cost-effective or least burdensome alternative that achieves the objectives of the rule, for ... the private sector, in the case of a rule containing a Federal private sector mandate." I'm not sure whether the latest moves are squarely within this text, though.

"When someone says their heart needs lifting, don't ask how come, ask how high."

I think the GOP got played

I think the GOP got played (and smartly at that) by the Dems. Now I'm very pro-immigration but I also know that public sentiment is mixed at best. And I'd say a fair percentage of working class dems are against immigration reform. It was so much easier for Sen Reid to let a few Dems who wanted a blanket amnesty (I hate that term) to vote no along with the nativist Republicans to sink it and attach blame to the Republicans. Now we get to see the republicans "piss off" the small businesses. I'm sorry but its all so stupid. We don't want to pay more for our housing, our vegatables and our hotel rooms. And no we're not going to fill those jobs with Americans. What a great deal to have an eager work force who doesn't require government funded benefits and even pays into the social security system. Given our pending (i.e. in the next 15 year) labor shortage I predict we'll be begging them to come to work BUT only if they pay into social security and medicare.

Max, If you are talking


If you are talking about me, what I actually said as that it would not be possible to craft a worse bill then the one that was being proposed.
I stand by that statement... that Bill was the equivalent of handing out U.S. citizenships at the border crossings to everyone who wanted it with a side helping of fries.

COULD the Bill have been fixed to make it somewhat workable? Yes..... but ONLY if the people controlling the legislative process would allow it to be....and they made it AMPLY clear they had no interest in doing so.

Did you even suggest some good compromises? Yes... but again, the people controlling the process had no interest in including them.

The ONLY roll we had left to play was that of the obstructionists.... and yes given the Bill they WERE going to pass otherwise...the status quo was the lesser of 2 evils.


Chris, the same start of scare tactics were put out when child labor was outlawed.....and earlier when slavery was abolished. It didn't sink the economy then...and enforcement of immigration won't sink it now.

The PRIMARY beneficiaries of cheap illegal labor are the people who earn most of thier income through CAPITAL INVESTMENTS. The people at the uppermost end of the income spectrum gain the LION share of the benefits. The people who shoulder the LIONS share of the COSTS for cheap illegal labor are working and middle class folks.... especialy the folks at the lower end of the income spectrum.

Yes working folks WILL be paying more for some cheap goods (though less then you might worry, because labor makes up only a portion of the cost of many goods... and cost savings from cheap labor is almost NEVER entirely passed on to the consumer... the manufacturer usualy pockets a good chunk of it in increased profits). At the same time, however, they'll be facing less WAGE DEPRESSION, less competition for social services, less competition for low cost housing, less quality of life problems due to crime, overcrowding and loss of cultural identity, less DEMAND for those very same consumer goods (illegals are CONSUMERS TOO ya know, they may not compete for 6,000 sq ft homes or titanium golf clubs that the wealth buy...but they sure as heck buy the same milk and bread that the working class does), less crowding in public schools, emergency rooms for the uninsured, etc.

Finally, if after all that there really is a labor shortage the solution is DAMN simple and quick.....raise quota's for LEGAL immigration. Heck you don't even need to go that far Puerto Rico has an 11% unemployment rate.....and THEIR U.S. citizens...... I'll hang out a great big welcome sign for any of them that want to head up here and work. Oh but I forgot, all us anti's are supposed to be motivated by racism[sarcasm].

EDITOR: Cengel, if you register, your comments will not be held up in the approval queue, and you won't have to solve math problems.

Hi Cengel

I wasn't pointing to you directly. I agree with most of your reasoning, but obstructionists include many on both sides (not the majority of Americans) who don't want either Amnesty or Security. This dead end will lead to worsening situations.

Just to be fair, this is ironic.

Is anyone suggesting we copy Mexico? Or France, or other nations? America has particular conditions and needs. I suspect that during the election run, the Left might suggest growing economic problems are amplified by anti-pro-business postion regarding crackdowns, along with corporate tax breaks, which seem contradictory opinions. Not to side track the thread, but immigration these days smacks of a broader partisan wrestling match.

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