In a speech last week in San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that raids on large employers of illegals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were “un-American.” Her predominantly immigrant audience applauded loudly.
What were they cheering for?
Illegal aliens apprehended by ICE raids have committed serious felonies usually repeatedly over a period of years. This record does not include the initial act of entering the U.S. unlawfully, which is only a misdemeanor.
The first felony committed by illegals is to buy the social security numbers of American citizens on the black market in order to obtain employment. Identity theft imposes serious costs on its victims, including exposing them to enforcement actions by the IRS, which will prosecute them for unpaid taxes on wages earned by the identity thief.
How many Americans really think such people should not be taken out of circulation by ICE? And why isn’t Speaker Pelosi sympathetic to the victims of the identity theft? The easiest way to round up illegal immigrants committing identity theft is to raid the workplaces where they are employed, such as Swift Beef, which was raided in the largest such enforcement action in U.S. history. Employment is, after all, the magnet that draws the illegals here.
In what way is it un-American for law enforcement to raid places where laws are broken? Presumably the Speaker would not decry any other law enforcement officials as “un-American.” ICE agents proceeded either with a warrant, or in the case of Swift Beef, with the company’s consent, making a warrant unnecessary in order to enter the workplace and arrest illegal immigrants found there.
Speaker Pelosi complained about raids in the middle of the night. In fact, most ICE raids occur at the workplace during working hours, when illegal aliens can be apprehended right from the workplace en masse. And since when is it un-American to apprehend criminals during the night?
What Speaker Pelosi seems most fundamentally to regard as “un-American” is any ICE enforcement of our immigration laws. If ICE does not enforce the law at the workplace, then how can the Immigration Reform and Control Act, passed in 1986, making it illegal to employ illegal immigrants be enforced? She has no answer except to point out that she favors “comprehensive immigration reform” which the Senate rejected in 2007, despite the full-fledged support of former President Bush, 85% of Democrats, and all business-oriented lobbies. The people reacted overwhelmingly against the proposal, and Republicans got the message. John McCain retreated from his support during the campaign and stated he would vote against the bill if it came up again.
Will Republicans hold firm when it comes up again, possibly this summer? This will be another high-profile congressional fight. And this time Republicans won’t have a president leading them in the wrong direction. If the Democrats side with Speaker Pelosi and against ICE, then Republicans will have starkly defined the battle lines for the midterm election on an incredibly sensitive issue.
We are being told by advocates of more immigration that the Republican party has scared off Hispanic voters. What underlies this argument is that opposition to illegal immigration has no net political plus. That is, immigration enforcement is only an issue to immigrants (primarily Hispanics). The more we talk about enforcement, the more votes we lose.
My experience in the last decade prosecuting civil RICO cases exposed me to the other side of this political Hobson’s choice. Illegal immigration is upending the lives of virtually all Americans with high school educations, the bottom 20% of the socio-economic pyramid. I’ll call them the Bottom Quartile Americans.
They have very limited employment options to begin with, and this becomes more acute each year as the economy moves toward higher skilled service sector workers. The Bottom Quartile Americans, about 45% black, 45% white and the rest legal Hispanics, gravitate toward the same job opportunities as illegal immigrants: hourly-paid labor in construction, poultry processing, cleaning crews, agriculture, etc. Until the early 1990′s the Bottom Quartile Americans found employment in these industries at wages that enabled them to make a lower-middle class income.
Today, not only do they have to compete with illegal immigrants for these same jobs, but the Bottom Quartile Americans compete for jobs that pay less in real terms than they did 15 years ago. They see employers accepting bogus social security cards from illegal immigrants who cannot speak a word of English, employers who hire illegals off the books as “independent contractors,” employers who threaten to deport illegals who vote to unionize in NLRB elections, and they become justifiably enraged. In one of my cases an HR director told a group of mostly illegal Hispanic workers who had staged a walkout after dutifully opposing unionization in exchange for management’s promise to raise wages (which management then refused to do), “I know you people need your papers fixed. I can send you back to Mexico just like I brought you in here.”) Another HR worker hired the same illegal immigrant three times under three different names and social security numbers. (Each time Social Security caught up with the illegal worker, he purchased a new fake card, and then was issued a new state I.D.)
These employers are, in my experience, solid George W. Bush Republicans, often showing up on lists of big donors to the party. They are also flagrantly violating immigration laws and RICO, which Congress amended a decade ago to include the employment of illegal immigrants as “predicate offenses.”
Which party to these employment practices should be the object of Republican indignation? To Mr. Bush, it was the legal workers, which he consigned to a life of declining wages and unemployment with his refusal to acknowledge that the economy leaves them little alternative but to take jobs “that Americans won’t do.” This just isn’t the case. Not only will they do them (I represent many of them), but increasingly can’t get them. Who does George Bush think worked construction and poultry plant assembly lines in the 1980s?
Now back to the premise of the immigration advocates: that Republican immigration policy should be driven by the desire to get Hispanic votes. No Republican presidential or congressional candidate has ever won the Hispanic vote. George Bush’s alleged 40% in 2004 is a myth. Here in Illinois he won 17% in the state’s majority-Hispanic congressional district. The numbers are equally dismal in New York. But our aggrieved Bottom Quartile Americans vote and are increasingly wedded, as they should be, to candidates who will save their jobs.
They are part of our future coalition.