The Fighting 29th has a PDF of Eric Massa’s recent LTE in the Corning Leader, outlining his thoughts on immigration reform, assuming such a thing will ever happen in Congress. I become increasingly doubtful of this notion. In any event, Rottenchester points out that this position of Massa’s seems to “thread the needle” between two very vociferous constituencies:
Massa’s proposal satisfies two constituencies that have been vocal about reform. The first is the anti-amnesty group, which is enraged by the prospect of millions of illegal immigrants “jumping the line” and being granted citizenship. The second is farmers, who need temporary workers to harvest crops. Massa’s suggestion provides them with a stream of workers, and it also would do away with holding the farmers responsible for investigating the immigration status of workers they employ.
Thread the needle it may indeed, but I don’t think it’s a very workable suggestion. Of course, no politically-viable option really does, which is why I sigh heavily every time immigration reform comes up.
Reform is only going to happen when someone decides to sacrifice their electability for the cause. Right now, the whole show is so filled with BS, it’s hard to know where to begin. Massa’s proposal sounds good on a lot of levels, and I’m actually quite sure that his proposal is more statesmanly than it is political weasling, so let me be clear in saying that I don’t doubt his sincerity for a moment.
However, while no accurate documentation exists on this population of immigrants, it is an assumption to think that all people’s illegally immigrating here are migrant workers returning home on a regular basis. That may be true in many cases, and certainly in Upstate New York, we have our share of migrant workers, but certainly as many do not go home. To expect that they all go back and start over again is probably unreasonable.
Is it immoral? No. Is it wrong? No. Is it going to happen? No. Tough shit.
And what’s worse than ignoring a problem? Passing laws that cannot be enforced by society, cannot be adhered to by the governed, and therefore water down the primacy of the rule of law, that’s what. Think “War on Drugs.” We need to get over ourselves, our sense of moral outrage, and ask a serious question: do we want to “punish the wrongdoers” or do we want to accomplish reform and move forward? Any reasonable assesment of the situation reveals only those two options.
On the second point, to quote Massa:
It would be totally unethical to hold employers responsible for investigating the legal status of every single one of their employees. Agricultural employers do not have the resources to do this and every grape grower I know has already done all they can to document the legal status of their workers. . .
I’m not in the habit of piling on farmers, but this is just not correct. First of all, every single one of us who works has to fill out W-2s to prove that we’re legal citizens, and if we are not, employers are always responsible for not catching this. It’s not different for farmers at all. Secondly, the Social Security Department already provides an 800 number to call and verify the validity of identification, and that’s been in existence for 12 years by now. In fact, there’s even a website by Carnegie-Melon. Checking these ID’s won’t break the bank.
And finally, there needs to be a last line of defense for the integrity of our borders, and in this as in all things in a democracy, the last line is us. Perhaps the penalties aught to be rethought, perhaps the government aught to find a way to employ the employers as citizen partners in enforcing the law somehow rather than making enforcement putative. All of those things are certainly options worth putting on the table.
But if you’re ever going to stop the problem, you need to squelch the demand, or the supply will fuck ya every time.
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