Friday, April 21, 2006

round up the usual suspects

The Bush administration set a single-day record for workplace-enforcement arrests earlier this week, hauling in close to 1,200 immigrant workers. This, of course, made all the evening newscasts, and made the administration look, if only for a moment, like they were the team to beat in the “who is toughest on illegal immigration” bowl.

But something just didn’t seem right. Was this part of an ongoing administration effort to make it tough on illegal workers and the companies that hire them, or was this, as Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) called it, "A photo-op crackdown by [the Bush administration's Homeland Security Department] to prove a political point?"

Gee, I wonder. . . .

I did some checking, and, sure enough, about a month ago, I had read this:

The Bush administration has a dismal record on employer enforcement. In 2003, it made just 443 worksite arrests of the estimated 6 million undocumented workers in the U.S. at that time. Even worse, the administration in 2004 issued only three notices of intent to fine employers for hiring undocumented workers, a drop from 417 in 1999, according to a Government Accountability Report. "Even when employers were caught hiring undocumented workers, the penalties typically have been minor," in part because Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "often lowers the amount of a fine in negotiations with employers." Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the GAO, testified last year that worksite enforcement "continues to be a low priority for ICE."

So, surprise to no one, the PR Presidency strikes again, and, while the cameras roll and a thousand or more poor workers are presumed guilty and shipped south, no real leadership will be shown on immigration. And, I’m betting, IFCO Systems, the company that hired this week’s unfortunate immigrants, will continue to function pretty much as it did before the raids (the country needs shipping pallets, after all), and any fines levied will likely be negotiated down—way down—sometime after the November elections.


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