Immigration Bill was Not the Answer, Ending Amnesty for Employers Is
A column by Senator Claire McCaskill
When the U.S. Senate recently took up the immigration bill, there were hours and hours of complicated discussions about what to do about the problem. I believe it could be addressed in a very simple way. As a former prosecutor, I believe it is about following the law. As an auditor, I believe it is about following the money.
We have crimes we can deter in this country, and we have crimes we cannot deter. A crime we can deter is the hiring of illegal immigrants, if we prosecute the people who are hiring them. Other business owners will stop hiring illegal immigrants if they see businesses being held accountable. However, what is hard to deter is families who are trying to feed their children.
As to putting up a wall, yes, border enforcement is a critical part of the answer. As a former law enforcement official, I support enforcing the law against anyone who breaks the law. But let's be realistic about this; as an auditor, I want to be both efficient and effective.
Is it going to be efficient and effective to think we are going to solve this problem at the border? It is not the border that is going to stop the people coming into our country illegally. It is what is on the other side of the border. It is the promise of that job and the hungry mouths they are trying to feed.
So when I looked at the raid that occurred in Butterfield, Missouri a few weeks ago when over 100 illegal immigrants were arrested, I kept watching the news for some word about that employer, but there was nothing.
I know what they'll say. The employer's defenders will say, "but that employer down near Springfield at the chicken processing plant didn't know - the workers had fake IDs. They had fake Social Security numbers." If anyone believes that employer did not know they had illegal immigrants working there, I have a bridge I want to sell you. Of course they knew.
If you had a good prosecutor and a couple of investigators, in no time at all you'd have the evidence to prove that thousands of employers in this country are not playing by the rules. But that's not happening right now and the employers who hire illegal immigrants know they don't have to worry because no one is interested in putting them in jail.
Is that fair? No, it is not fair. It's not fair to American workers. Furthermore, it's unfair to the businesses that are playing by the rules. It is fundamentally unfair that many businesses in America are requiring the kind of documentation that assures them they are following the law while other employers are paying cash under the table to pad the bottom line. Follow the money.
Under current law, employers right can serve up to 6 months in prison. If we prosecuted more employers, it would do more to shut the flow of illegal immigrants, frankly, than all the legislation we could ever pass in Congress because it would send the message to American employers that they are not going to be rewarded with more profits by breaking the rules.
If we want to stop illegal immigration in this country, we have to get serious about the magnet that is drawing these people to our country, instead of looking the other way when people hire illegal immigrants. Until we stop looking the other way, ignoring those businesses that are not playing by the rules, we will never effectively deal with immigration in this country.
This doesn't have to be complicated. Enforce the law. It is a mistake to toy and allow bureaucrats to decide who has broken the law, like one amendment I opposed. Rather, when someone breaks the law they should be brought in front of our criminal justice system and be accountable to the courts.
But frankly, we don't even need this legislation to be effective. If this Administration would only enforce current law, it would make a tremendous difference.
In fact, I voted against the Senate immigration bill for a number of reasons, but there were two that really stuck out at me. I could not support the expansion of a broken guest worker program and I did not think the employer sanctions were tough enough.
Despite the fact that the immigration bill failed, we can still be effective at curbing the illegal immigration problem we have in this country if we are serious about cracking down on employers.
And if this President is serious about illegal immigration in this country, I suggest he call his Attorney General and tell him that he wants employers who are knowingly hiring thousands of illegal immigrants to be prosecuted under the law and to spend some time in jail. That would get to the bottom of the problem.