WILLIAMS: With immigration reform, the consumer matters

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The recent Supreme Court ruling in Chamber of Commerce vs. Whiting highlights a fundamental and before now underappreciated factor in the immigration debate: Immigrants come here illegally because they know that U.S. companies will hire them.

While most of the immigration laws have focused on the illegal immigrants themselves, very few of them have focused on the consumers of their labor: companies, and, by extension, the consumers they serve.

Americans have become addicted to immigrant labor to fill jobs that Americans won’t do (at the wages and under the working conditions immigrants are subjected to), while complaining about the side effects — overburdened social services, crime and cultural dilution in the border states. But it’s not hard to spot the illegal immigrants in any given neighborhood. In fact, it’s quite simple. They are the only people tending your lawn, baby-sitting your children and running your restaurants on the cheap.

But up until now the focus has been on curbing the supply. The approaches have ranged from the pure silly — like trying to erect a wall along the Mexican border — to the downright diabolical — private citizens forming vigilante groups and terrorizing hapless brown people who may or may not be illegal immigrants. The recent Arizona law, which revokes the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants is the first real measure focused on the demand side.

Illegal immigrant labor is a performance enhancing drug with wide side effects. By hiring illegals, companies get an edge over other firms that don’t. They buy cheap labor from individuals who have no civil rights whatsoever: They cannot complain if they are cheated on their paycheck, protest unhealthy working conditions, or reject wages less than the minimum federal wage. If they do complain, they can be immediately detained and sent back to their countries of origin with none of the due process that would be accorded to an American citizen. And so this keeps them in their place — a place of legal limbo — and gives U.S. firms access to what is essentially slave labor.

Before now, we’ve had a tacit agreement between big business and big government to leave the immigration issue unresolved. After all, illegal labor has acted as a subsidy to businesses and consumers of the cheap labor. But that arrangement seems to be cracking, and that’s a good thing. The American people want their borders defended and their rights protected by the government that they, the citizens, have elected. This is especially true in a recession when Americans are facing unprecedented unemployment, debt and a decline in living standards.

The recent Supreme Court ruling was right for America - legally, factually and morally. But the Supreme Court’s vocal minority, along with a strange bedfellows’ coalition of big business and civil rights organizations would have you believe that a reasonable business regulation is an encroachment on the civil rights of legal immigrants.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The regulations are narrowly tailored in accordance with federal definitions of “illegal” status, and they accord appropriate due process for the offending corporations. No one can be rejected for a job because they “look” illegal. But businesses have the additional responsibility of verifying an applicant’s immigration status. All of the normal civil rights protections for workers have been undisturbed by the ruling.

Illegal immigration, while it has some short term benefits, ultimately dilutes the rights and privileges of Americans who pay their taxes and play by the rules. It’s not fair for employers to get the benefit of illegal labor at a cheap price, while the society as a whole has to bear the price of social services for people who do not vote or pay taxes in this country.

In the past, such unfairness caused such a rift in the union that it sparked a bloody war. The elites attempted to secede from the United States in order to keep slavery in place. Let’s hope we can avert such an abomination this time around.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius Power 128, 7 to 8 p.m. and 4 to 5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.

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