Somebody may be pouting at the White House over the collapse of the comprehensive amnesty legislation.
For seven years, the Bush administration has been unable or unwilling to enforce the immigration laws, leading to an out-of-control deluge of illegal aliens across the nation’s Southern border. Suddenly, the feds are about to do what they said couldn’t be done.
They’ve been winking at employers who shrug at the widespread custom of taking prospective employees at their word that the Social Security card they offer is genuine, even when the employers suspect it is not and sometimes even when they know it is not. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Social Security cards are widely counterfeited in Mexico for sale to illegals about to cross the border. The Social Security Administration routinely warns employers when they discover suspicious numbers entered into its electronic database, but only now the feds are warning employers that they’re about to get serious about enforcement. Maybe.
Many employers, particularly restaurants, chicken pluckers like Tyson's, Perdue, Pilgrim's Pride and other low-pay companies, are suddenly terrified that they will shape up or pay enormous fines. Pilgrim's Pride, one of the largest, has fired a hundred illegals with illegal cards at one plant in Texas, and warns that more firings are coming. The company, which employs 55,000 workers in the United States and Mexico, acknowledged that it dismissed some employees but won’t say how many or why, but a spokesman says “there undoubtedly will be additional terminations.” The fired workers have been replaced. This is curious, because we’ve been told by the amnesty advocates that illegal or not, the illegals are needed because they will do the jobs nobody else will do.
Enforcing the law is always a good thing to do, and a late conversion is better than no conversion at all. The federal government has always enforced the laws it wanted to enforce. You could ask segregationist school boards across the South of a generation ago. So the sudden White House enthusiasm for enforcing immigration law, doing what they said couldn’t be done, inevitably raises suspicions about why now. Maybe, say curious minds who want to know, there’s a spiteful message here to the millions of Americans who so unceremoniously put the president and his allies in Congress smartly in their place with the collapse of the immigration bill. Rarely has the Washington political establishment been so rudely — and effectively — slapped across the face and told to remember that public servants are, after all, servants of an impatient and long-suffering public. Lessons like this sting and smart, and the pols don’t like to be reminded of who they actually are. So the reply is rough and blunt: “You want enforcement? We’ll give you enforcement.”
The federal dog is determined, however, to sleep in the manger, to hoard the hay he won’t eat, just to keep the horse, who will, from getting any of it. Hundreds of towns and cities across America, suddenly responsible for hundreds of thousands of illegals who have flocked to where the low-paying scut work is available, have undertaken to do what the feds are meant to do, but can’t, or won’t.
Cities that once sought diversity, and told its cops to wink at illegal immigration for fear of being accused of “racial profiling,” are suddenly singing to a different sheet of music. No longer concerned about being called racists, bigots, nativists, traitors or other categories of boogermen, mayors and councilmen are telling the feds that if they can’t or won’t enforce the law, the towns, cities and counties will. “It’s reached the boiling point,” says Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Prince William County, Va., which this week voted unanimously to enable county police to check the citizenship status of anyone they stop for other offenses or have “probable cause” to suspect of illegal entry into the United States, and, specifically, Prince William County. This sounds eminently reasonable to the reasonable among us.
The crackdown on employer scofflaws is so far only a threat, and a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says she doesn’t know when to expect the crackdown to actually begin. That’s when employers, like their illegal employees, will have to be alert, and ready to slip through the back door and make a run for it.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.
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