President Bush is making a big mistake in announcing that he wants to send up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. What a shoddy way to say thank you to troops who have seen plenty of action in Iraq and after Katrina. It is also an insult to conservative and moderate voters, whom he apparently thinks this feckless gesture will appease.
The whole focus on the border shows that Bush is not serious about curbing illegal immigration. Washington already has increased the ranks of the Border Patrol, which is good. Meanwhile, as many as one-third of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in America are visa violators. They didn't sneak over the border.
Want to find them? Want to discourage more people from coming to America so they can work here illegally? Squeeze employers.
In the private sector, Chicago attorney Howard Foster has masterminded class-action lawsuits on behalf of legal workers against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers with dubious documents and no English skills. Zirkle Fruit, a Washington-based apple-packing company, recently agreed to a settlement that will require it to compensate legal workers to the tune of $1.3 million for the wages they would have earned in a marketplace not depressed by illegal immigrants.
Why put Guardsmen at the border when the government doesn't even require that employers check with authorities to see if workers are legal? In 1997, Washington began work on the Basic Pilot program, which allows employers to check new hires' Social Security numbers. Problem is, Foster noted, Basic Pilot is "only voluntary. It's not mandatory. Congress doesn't want to make it mandatory, they don't want to burden employers with it."
Basic Pilot also needs to be improved so that it can detect pilfered identities. As it is, Foster noted, some corporations that hire largely illegal workforces have learned how to use the database "as a ruse to keep the feds quiet and keep them from getting raided again."
As Foster sees it, the government should routinely raid corporations in industries notorious for hiring undocumented workers.
Bush would not need to consult Congress he could direct his government to focus on workplace enforcement. (If the feds feel too understaffed to raid known hirers of illegal immigrants, they might consider pulling a few agents from medical-marijuana raid details.)
Mark Krikorian, head of the Center for Immigration Studies, argues that the Social Security Administration should send out more no-match letters to employers to inform them that workers don't match their Social Security numbers. Bush also could order that change and would not need to wait for Congress.
As for the National Guard at the border, that's "just cosmetic silliness. It's an expression of contempt for people who are concerned about immigration. In the White House, they think that anybody who is concerned about immigration must be a yahoo."
"You send in the National Guard if there's a hurricane," Krikorian added. "What's the emergency now? The emergency now is they're trying to get an amnesty bill, and it's dying."
Sending the National Guard is a cheesy way to get around the fact that voters want Washington to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in America today, while Washington wants to reduce the number of illegal immigrants by making them legal. And everyone knows that amnesty or what Washington calls "earned citizenship" will send a signal to would-be Americans that it pays to violate federal immigration law. California schools will admit more children who don't know English, while state emergency rooms care for workers without health benefits.
Employers won't have to pay the cost of their cheap labor. That's what the National Guard is for.