Thursday, May 17, 2018

Too Many Companies are in the Business of Breaking the Law

Friends, my latest article, coming soon to The Daily Caller in a more abbreviated form, takes on one of the most bedeviling issues related to illegal immigration.  Millions of illegals are working for a living in this country, despite numerous laws that are designed to make hiring illegal aliens impossible.  To solve this problem, we need an entirely new, and much more aggressive, approach to punishing employers who violate our immigration and labor laws.  Are you with me?  If we can eliminate the "job magnet" for illegal immigrants, I believe much of the problem will solve itself.  The illegals will simply stay home.

The Battle Over Illegal Immigration Will Be Won or Lost with Employers

Recently, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has stepped up its enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. More and more raids are targeting illegal immigrants, especially dangerous criminals, and sometimes these raids occur in the illegals' workplaces, much to the chagrin of “sanctuary” mayors and governors, who feel that these hapless “immigrants” are being terrorized. However, the fact is that these raids are still few and far between. Even with more vigorous enforcement of our immigration laws, and even with increased deportations of criminal illegal immigrants, the number of illegals in the U.S. has barely budged, and illegal aliens continue to stream into the country. Businesses also continue to employ around 8 million illegals. 

President Trump, and many Republicans, are apt to focus on the need for a wall on our southern border. Such a wall is indeed a necessity, in order to promote the security and integrity of our border with Mexico. The President should thus insist that Congress funds the wall before the midterm elections, as he has stated he will. 

The problem, though, is that even a wall will not solve the problem of illegal immigration. This is because many illegal immigrants, and possibly most of them, don't hop the border in the first place. They come to the U.S. as tourists, or on student or temporary work visas, and then they never leave. A border wall will do nothing to halt this species of illegal alien.

We should also consider the fact that, once an illegal enters the country, even if he/she is eventually identified by federal authorities, the average wait time for a hearing in our immigration courts is 718 days! This means many illegals are simply released pending a hearing, and, predictably, few of them choose to show up when their day in court arrives. In so many ways, therefore, the traditional immigration enforcement system is hopelessly broken. Merely expanding it won't fix the problem of illegal immigration. A more fundamental change in direction is needed.

As many in ICE realize, the ultimate draw for many illegal immigrants is the ability to work in this country, despite their “undocumented” status. Millions of illegal immigrants work for U.S. companies, large and small, and it is abundantly clear that most of these firms believe they can violate immigration laws and labor laws with impunity. It's easy to see why: very few employers are ever punished for hiring illegals, and very few companies pay fines for doing so, and when such fines are assessed, the amounts involved are laughably small. The result is that America is open for business, vis-a-vis illegal immigrant workers. It has been for decades, and it remains so today.

Why has the problem of illegal immigrant workers been allowed to fester? To Democrats, in essence there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. There are only “immigrants,” and they can do no wrong. Republican elected officials, though, are equally unlikely to tackle the illegal immigration problem at its source – with employers – because of their pro-business attitudes, and because such workers are cheap and pliable. In fact, illegal immigrant workers are subjected to systematically abusive and exploitative treatment by their employers, which neither party seems to mind. In addition, Republicans are generally afraid that any serious effort to enforce immigration laws will result in accusations of “racism!” The end result is what amounts to a tacit conspiracy in Washington, D.C. to ignore the rampant violation of our country's immigration and labor laws.

I would argue that the presidency of Donald Trump represents the best opportunity our country has had in the last several decades to tackle the problem of illegal immigration energetically and successfully. To do so, however, we cannot afford to target only the illegal immigrants themselves. We also need to target the government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and businesses that facilitate illegal immigration. As I have argued before, this means prosecuting public officials who implement “sanctuary” policies that are designed to obstruct the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. This should also mean the prosecution of NGOs that exist to harbor and protect illegal immigrants. Where the rubber meets the road, though, is with employers, and here we have much work to do.

Every year, hundreds of workplaces are raided by ICE, and millions of dollars in fines are meted out to employers. Under President Trump, these enforcement actions are multiplying, and more businesses than ever are being “audited,” but given the scale of the private sector economy – and the sheer numbers of illegal immigrants employed – this traditional approach to enforcement simply won't yield significant results. What is needed is a change in the culture of American business. As it stands now, frequently U.S. companies are more afraid of illegal immigration activists picketing or boycotting them if they cooperate with ICE than they are of federal authorities punishing them for violating the law. This is outrageous.

Two simple steps could turn this situation around. First, ICE should reward informants who provide tips about employers who routinely hire illegal immigrants. The flow of intel that this unlocks could be used to prosecute hiring managers who knowingly violate the law or conceal the “undocumented” status of their employees. Such white collar criminals should face serious jail time. This is what federal prisons are for, if you ask me. The mental calculus of hiring managers and HR departments across America would change overnight if this tactic were utilized. Presumably, the use of the federal government's E-Verify system, that aims to detect illegal immigrants and prevent their employment, would skyrocket. Under current law, use of the system is mostly voluntary.

Secondly, the fines assessed on companies violating immigration and labor laws need to be dramatically increased. If one were to add three zeros to the aggregate amount of fines collected by immigration authorities from U.S. businesses every year, one would thus add a serious expense for these companies that would undoubtedly change their attitudes and behavior. We would be hitting these rogue businesses where it hurts: their bottom line. Probably, though, this tactic would require Congress to reform our immigration laws, which, as we have seen, is apparently next to impossible.

Whether an enforcement crackdown of the sort I have proposed will emerge is uncertain. As vigorous as the Trump administration has been when it comes to tracking down and deporting criminal illegal aliens, it has shown remarkable restraint in other respects, and it has shown little appetite for making U.S. companies pay a price for their complicity in illegal immigration. We should not allow our desire to promote economic growth to undermine our dedication to the rule of law, however.

If we want to end illegal immigration once and for all, it's clear that not only illegal immigrants, but also their enablers, need to face justice. ICE understands this. President Trump may not, as yet, but let us hope he will come around.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at:

And here's the published version!  My thanks to The Daily Caller.


  1. Dr. Waddy: Your proposals constitute a plausible solution by addressing the fundamental reason illegals immigrate and advancing appropriate measures to counter it. With this President, we do have the best chance to do what is necessary to preserve our national integrity, including our unparalleled ability and willingness to do as much as possible to use our wealth and power to help those for whom their countries offer no help. If Congress will not back him, then lets change Congress in November by electing those who affirm their support for him. Some other thoughts: Dems should be taken to task should they resist vigorous use of the E-verify system. They are, after all, eager to use the national background check for firearms buyers as the basis for an increasing regime of enervating roadblocks meant to discourage law abiding citizens from acquiring the arms to which they are constitutionally entitled. Establishing draconian increases in fines, which big corporations could afford, would nonetheless put the snide on the HR people who would hire them without having appreciated to the full their unlawful status, thereby threatening their jobs. Common sense says what that would mean. And, by all means, prosecute state and local "sanctuary" officials. Southern Governors in the '60's faced the same, backed by regular army troops with fixed bayonets at their very doors. Let Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown be given simularly irrefutable evidence of an analogous intent on the part of President Trump.

  2. Well said, Jack. There aren't many problems that fixing bayonets won't solve, although I suppose there are a few that bayonets may cause... I'm not optimistic that Congress will act on immigration, but there's long been the rough outlines of a bipartisan compromise on tougher enforcement and some legalization of long-standing illegal residents. Maybe someday we'll grasp it.

  3. Dr. Waddy: I know a guy who was in a bayonet fight in Vietnam. Its deployment sends a very serious message, which I think was received in the early 60's. Just imagine, the Governor of Arkansas went on TV to tell his state "we are now occupied" - this in an area for which its previous occupation was an onerous and almost living memory. But the country did stay together. I'm amazed to think of colonial militia actually facing British regulars coming at them with those hideous 16 inch things.I know what it looks like from the 18th century reenactments I've done at Ft. Niagara (in Civil War reenactments we aren't allowed to fix them in "battle"). Presumptuous and reckless idealists like those who mandate "sanctuary" status for their realms could do with some of a dose of reality similar to that experienced by Faubus, Barnett and Wallace. And if they do end up in Federal joints they should be celled up with MS-13 alumni.

  4. Jack gives no quarter, I see! It is extraordinary to think about how divided and tense the country was over desegregation. Arguably that may make Trump-hatred seem like small potatoes. Of course, it's early days yet...