May 17, 2005
To my surprise, yesterday morning C-SPAN broadcast live from Arizona, where volunteer border patrols have caused great controversy lately. (See my post of April 19.) Doing a remote broadcast feed is rare if not unprecedented for the staid Congress-focused television service, a clear indication of how hot the immigration issue has become. In recent weeks Latino activists in Maryland have protested the proposed "Real ID" bill that would be a step toward a national identification card, something that libertarians and civil rights folks have warned about for many years. See Washington Post. The REAL ID Act of 2005 was introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on January 26. "H.R.418 : To establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver's license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence." See "Thomas" (Library of Congress), and a FAQ page from the usually reliable C-NET. Most of it makes perfect sense and is long overdue, but there are some provisions that may be a cause for concern.
Seldom acknowledged in all the discussions over immigration is how our own country's social policies create artificial shortages for labor that create a "great sucking sound" (How's that for irony -- remember Ross Perot?) drawing workers northward. Part of the problem is all the social safety net entitlement programs that make it easy for parents to shirk responsibility for providing for their offspring. It is not that working class people are too lazy to pick tomatoes or mop hospital floors, it's that there are so many labor regulations and minimum wage laws that discourage legitimate hires. Data are simply not available of course, but it is almost certain that the vast majority of firms that currently hire undocumented immigrants fail to live up to all the worker protection laws or Social Security. Indeed, many if not most illegals get hired by submitting fraudulent Social Security numbers, and the employers typically just wink or look the other way. Hey, it holds down costs, doesn't it? And besides, everyone else is doing it, right? (Thanks, Wal-Mart.) Toleration of this disgraceful practice is tantamount to indentured servitude and is unworthy of a country that prides itself on freedom and opportunity. Enough is enough. ¡Ya basta!
Fortunately, there are more and more organizations to push for major reforms. From some searching, I came across a list of links to immigration policy organizations, of which Federation for American Immigration Reform is the most well-known, and numbersusa.com looks interesting.
The requirements that states uphold stringent documentary standards might be construed as a classic "unfunded mandate." Like President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education reform, it risks upsetting the balance of power between the states and the Federal government. It is on that basis that I think we need to think through the implications of the REAL ID Bill and give it some REAL scrutiny before putting it into law.