Jewish World Review Dec. 14, 2004 / 2 Teves, 5765

Rich Lowry

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Kerik's immigration sin, and ours | The withdrawal of Bernard Kerik's nomination for secretary of Homeland Security has revived the "nanny issue" from the 1990s. Like two failed Clinton nominees for attorney general, Kerik employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny and failed to pay Social Security taxes on her labor. Whether the nanny was really the main problem with Kerik's troubled nomination is open to debate — media vultures are still picking away at his record — but the brouhaha sheds light on the looking-glass world of American immigration enforcement.

The political elite, which otherwise maintains an unshakable insouciance about the widespread disregard for the country's immigration laws, seems to think these laws should only be vigorously enforced when it comes to people nominated for Cabinet posts. If you might one day be considered for one of the nation's 15 Cabinet-level agencies, you must act as if immigration laws mean something. This double standard is, of course, absurd. We would never insist that only Cabinet nominees pay income taxes or abide by drug or labor laws.

But politicos seem to realize that the largely upper-middle-class indulgence of hiring illegal household help, when engaged in by people nominated to enforce our laws, risks igniting a populist revolt best avoided. Thus Kerik — nominated to head a department with responsibility for immigration enforcement, for goodness' sake! — had to go. And he really had no excuse. Verifying an employee's legality is usually only a matter of asking for documentation or calling an 800 number to verify a Social Security number or immigration-document number.

As the ton of bricks descends on Kerik, however, it is worth noting the stew of hypocrisy surrounding this issue. Last year, the same congressional Democrats now tsk-tsking the loudest about his fall initially opposed expanding a pilot program available in several states to allow employers to get an instant check from the federal government on the legal status of prospective employees. Democrats cited, among other things, concerns that it would discriminate against Hispanics. Republicans suspected the Democrats just didn't want to make enforcement any easier. The expansion eventually passed, and the system is now available nationwide.

Donate to JWR

Indeed, it is a sign of the schizophrenia inherent in our system that the 1986 immigration reform actually made it illegal to ask a prospective employee about his legal status prior to hiring. That is considered discriminatory. The Office of Special Council for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices in the Department of Justice is responsible for cracking down on employers too vigilant — or vigilant in the wrong ways — about not hiring illegal workers. Given that in 2002 only 13 employers were sanctioned for hiring illegals, the federal government's priorities here are obviously badly skewed.

On the nanny issue, Kerik has his quasi-defenders: "Everyone does it," they say, "everyone is forced to do it." Nonsense. Open-borders advocates make it sound as though there were never any housekeepers or nannies prior to the age of mass illegal immigration. There were. And somehow today, in those large swaths of the country without any illegal immigrants to speak of, people still manage to get their houses cleaned and their children cared for.

The reliance on illegal labor on the coasts and in major urban areas is deeply corrupting. It fosters a casual contempt for the law among those who do the hiring, and it hurts the country's most economically vulnerable citizens. Poorly educated workers who might compete for the kind of jobs taken by illegals are either shoved out of the way entirely or see their wages cut by the unfair competition. Democrats and Republicans both tend to buck popular sentiment to defend this status quo for their own reasons — Democrats to pander to ethnic lobbies; Republicans to pander to businesses that like cheap labor with no rights.

All of this is why immigration laws should apply much more broadly than just to Bernie Kerik, or the next Cabinet nominee too careless to have observed the law in his own household.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and the media consider must-reading. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

12/10/04: The Rummy Haters
12/07/04: The greedy AARP
12/03/04: Chinese repression — American-style
11/30/04: Ohio lunacy
11/29/04: Intelligence reform absurdity
11/23/04: Bush reaches out
11/19/04: Home-alone America
11/16/04: The changing black vote
11/15/04: A grass-roots army
11/09/04: The brewing immigration backlash
11/05/04: The values election
11/02/04: The Kerry recovery
10/29/04: The Ohio insurance policy
10/26/04: The provisional-vote scam
10/22/04: The Florida lie
10/19/04: How government created the vaccine crisis
10/15/04: Kerry's strange respect
10/12/04: Senator, you're no Reagan
10/11/04: Tora Bora bull
10/05/04: The debate that wasn't
09/29/04: Momma gets tough
09/24/04: The GOP's demographic problem
09/21/04: Kerry's Iraq gambit
09/20/04: Questions for Dan Rather
09/14/04: John Kerry, explained
09/10/04: The unfathomable human toll
09/08/04: W the Bold
09/03/04: Loud and proud
09/03/04: The candidate of change?
08/27/04: The McCain myth
08/24/04: Kerry refuses to admit that he burst onto the national scene by telling a shameful falsehood about American servicemen
08/20/04: The war on obstetrics
08/17/04: And now it's ‘Tommy Franks lied’?

© 2004, King Features Syndicate