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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

El Otro Lado

El Otro Lado. The Other Side.

This term has been heard in Texas ever since the days of the Republic. Texas began its political existence as an independent Republic carved out of Mexico, which was subsequently annexed by the United States as the 28th state. As Texas still shares a natural border with Mexico, the subjects of both legal and illegal immigration have always had a special place in Texas culture.

Gone are the days of the Republic and the pro-slavery/anti-slavery fight over annexation. While many things about Texas have changed over the years, one thing has always remained the same: The Rio Grande marks the border between the United States and Mexico in Texas. Contemporary Texas hosts the nation's second-largest economy, the nation's greatest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, the nation's largest port in terms of international commerce and the nation's second-largest estimated population of illegal immigrants (link to Pew Hispanic Center PDF file).

A non-trivial amount of Texas' economic growth over the last three decades has depended on cheap labor provided by illegal immigrants from Mexico and points further south. The most recent (and controversial) estimate was provided by Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office in 2005, the first report of its kind issued by a state: Texas' 1.4 million illegal immigrants contributed $17.7 billion dollars to the state's $900 billion dollar economy. The Comptroller's report went on to assert that illegal immigrants end up contributing more to the state than they cost the state.

FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group dedicated to enforcement-side solutions to illegal immigration, offered this critique in their denouncement of the Comptroller's report (emphasis mine):

The Texas study documents that illegal aliens are, indeed, a billion dollar annual net liability to the state's taxpayers - even after accounting for taxes paid, but suggests that Texas benefits from their output in goods and services. This makes sense only if the assumption is that the jobs now being done by illegal aliens would not otherwise be done by legal workers. If not for the availability and exploitation of cheap illegal labor, employers would recruit Americans to do the work at higher wages with little reduction of output and currently unemployed and underemployed Texans would benefit, many rising out of poverty.

If you believe that last part, I've got some tax cuts for the wealthy, some school vouchers, some Social Security privatization and some oceanfront propert in Arizona to sell you!

As I blogged here earlier this month, I am at the best of times skeptical of supply-side or enforcement-only solutions to problems like illegal immigration that have a clearly defined demand side to them. The S.A.V.E. Act is an enforcement-only solution that does not address the demand side of the illegal immigration problem. Simply expecting businesses who profit from employing illegal immigrants to suddenly shape up and start to use E-Verify to check their employees' legal status in the U.S. is about a realistic as expecting a unicorn with a pot of gold on its back to slide down a rainbow and land at your feet. Businesses and contractors aren't verifying their employees' identity right now because it's difficult; they're not verifying their employees' identity because they don't want to ask questions where they're not going to like the answers. Until you come up with penalties that are severe enough to deter this behavior and enact them in a meaningful, no loopholes regulatory environment, the problem will continue.

Comprehensive immigration reform that covers both supply-side and demand-side regulation is the only realistic answer to dealing with the issue of illegal immigration in both Texas and the U.S. as a whole. Anything less, including the S.A.V.E. Act, may temporarily interrupt the dynamics of the illegal immigrant community in the U.S. but will not solve the problem of illegal immigration.

Sadly, I think that it is now quite clear that immigration (don't kid yourselves, we're talking about both the legal and illegal kind) is going to be the "welfare queens" meme of this election cycle for Republicans. With everyone from Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo pushing for a halt to all immigration to Republican opponents like CNN's Lou Dobbs pushing illegal immigration as the cause of all the ills of the American middle class, the meme is already well-established.

Just as Ronald Reagan ran with the reverse ecological fallacy of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen that was used to demonize all welfare recipients in general and single African-American mothers on welfare in particular, immigrants from Central and South America are now being blamed for everything under the sun by people like Tancredo, Dobbs and most of the Republican base. This cynical sleight-of-hand distracts Americans from the very real problems of increasing inequality and greater risk that Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker has coined the "The Great Risk Shift." This strategy takes the very real problems of illegal immigration and conflates them with the far greater problems of inequality and risk, both of which are being experienced in greater and greater amounts by both the working class and middle class in America. This is the latest iteration of the age old Republican tactic summed up so well by Michael Douglas's character in the movie The American President:

Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character.

What to do about illegal immigration is a tough issue for all of us to consider, be we Democrats or Republicans, progressives or conservatives. There is, however, only one serious solution to this issue and that is not the S.A.V.E. Act or building fences along the Mexican border or militarizing the border. The sole serious solution to this issue is comprehensive immigration reform. Nothing more, nothing less.

the Save Act is working in OK & it will work Nationally

Contrary to what Patrick McLead wants us to believe, illegal immigration enforcement, need not be linked to amnesty or comprehensive immigration reform.
It's a simple process to merely do enforcement first. It's morally wrong to reward those who broke the law by ignoring our immigration system, with a pathway to citizenship, driver's licenses, schorlarships, or social benefits.

Some opponets of this bill have mentioned that OK passed a good bill which has caused illegal immigrants to flee the state. Two of the cornerstone elements of that bill are

(a) Mandatory use of the E-Verify system, and (b) 287(g) training for local and state police to coordinate with Federal agencies to enforce immigration law on the local level. If you like the Oklahoma bill, you should love the SAVE Act, which would essentially expand those measures to the rest of the country.

The SAVE Act implements the mandatory use of the E-Verify system nationally. This will turn off the job magnet. This will result in many illegal aliens self-deporting.

Opponets of this bill also complaine it isn't necessary. We only need to enforce our current immigration laws and everything will be fine.

This is FALSE. This nation has no law that forces employers to verify social security numbers (SSN). Our current laws do NOT require this. Social security number verification is the method of ridding the work place of all illegals that use false numbers.

Only employees with false social security numbers and the employers that hire them need to fear this bill. This bill will force employors to terminate illegal aliens. Many of these illegals will simply go home. Just like many of them are simply leaving OK. Without a nation wide implementation of SSN verification, illegals will merely escape from one state to another.

If you think it's working in OK, it will work nationally !

This bill is not perfect, but it isn't filled with loop holes.

This bill is supported by both Dems and Reps. It was introduced by a Dem., but a few more Reps. have signed on as co-sponsors. Only the leadership of BOTH parties fail to support this bill. The same leadership that mistakenly wants Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

George Bush failed to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform because an overwhelming number of voters called their elected representatives and demanded it be defeated.
Americans recognise the hiring of illegal immigrants as corporate welfare.

Numbers USA has an excellant reputation for "telling the truth", as does Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). They also support this bill.

The Save Act will help strengthen our borders and provide good interior enforcement against illegal immigrants.

Success doesn't mean what you think it does.

Just because a bill has bipartisan support doesn't mean it will work. And saying that the SAVE Act works in Oklahoma because it resulted in immigrants fleeing the state equates "immigrants fleeing the state" with "success", and they aren't the same thing.

That's like saying "I set something on fire, and it burned, so we're all winners!"

Supply Versus Demand

First of all, howdy!

My problem with S.A.V.E. is that making verification mandatory without putting some serious consequences behind skipping verification is pointless. In evaluating this piece of legislation as a problem of both supply and demand, drying up supply will not be any more effective than the overwhelming focus on interdiction in the drug war. With a supply and demand problem you have to introduce robust solutions on both sides of the equation, not just on the supply side.

Americans recognise the hiring of illegal immigrants as corporate welfare.

I only wish this were true, magyart. As I wrote in my article, I think the truth is that illegal immigrants (and, to a certain extent, legal immigrants) are being cast as the early 21st century's "welfare queens". They are being used as a distraction from the more direct issues assaulting the working class and middle class in this country, just as Reagan used "welfare queens" to distract the same classes of people from his dismantling of public services.

Employer Penalties for the SAVE Act

To the question of the SAVE Act not including any penalties or fines for employers:

Penalties and fines for employers who hire illegal aliens already exist. The SAVE Act doesn't change current law.

Every law now on the book against hiring illegal aliens remains in place. Even if a business isn't yet required to use E-Verify, that business still has to make a reasonable attempt to avoid hiring illegal aliens with fraudulent documents. One of the reasons a business should go ahead and use E-Verify before mandated is that it protects the business from being held accountable if an illegal alien DOES slip through and is later discovered.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) endorses the SAVE Act and has this comment regarding penalties:

NFIB believes that in order for an immigration reform effort to be successful, the requirements and enforcement provisions must be workable, efficient and fair for small businesses. As such, NFIB supports an employment eligibility verification system (EEVS) that includes a reasonable limit on small-business penalties and reduces such penalties on first-time offenders, prohibits penalties for good-faith violations, protects employers if incorrect information on a worker is given by the EEVS and contains an appropriate phase-in time of the new EEVS system. Title II of the SAVE Act addresses these small-business concerns and is consistent with the beliefs of our members.

NFIB is pleased that the SAVE Act retains current internal revenue code that takes into account the size of an employer in its fee structure. We also appreciate that the bill retains the safe haven provision for voluntary and early compliance.

Recent convictions upheld for employing and harboring illegal aliens:
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of a Florida retail store owner and his accountant (defendants) who employed illegal aliens in violation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). (United States of America v Khanani, 10thCir, 90 EPD 42,984)

wedge issue politics

It really seems like anytime anyone says something reasonable about how immigration is going to require comprehensive reform, all of the rhetoric tilts right and gets extreme.

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