Right the First Time, Senator Clinton

Switching too quickly on immigration

If Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign goes south, historians are likely to remember October 30 as the date of departure. In a Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia, Clinton was asked about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to issue special driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Unflappable until then, she gave an answer that commentators and other candidates derided as confused and contradictory.

The day after, Clinton tried to clarify her stance, announcing that she "supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure." Two weeks after that, she flipped: "As president, I will not support driver's licenses for undocumented people." So much for her vaunted sure-footedness.

She could be forgiven for stumbling. Something like 12 million unauthorized immigrants live in the United States. If Clinton was conflicted about them, so is the country. Everyone wants something done, but the nation is a long way from knowing what to do.

Opinion polls show that the public distinguishes between legal immigration (good, mostly) and illegal immigration (bad). The public believes strongly that the federal government is not doing enough to keep out illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly that more should be done to punish employers who knowingly hire them, and crushingly—by about 9-to-1—that illegal immigration is a serious problem. In other words, the public wants more done to stanch the inflow, both at the borders and in the workplace.

But what about the millions who are already here? Think of these as illegal residents, not just immigrants. Many have lived here for years, worked here, raised children (who are often U.S. citizens), put down roots in their communities. The public is ambivalent about cracking down on them. Even people who favor deporting illegal immigrants are ambivalent, because they doubt—justifiably—that mass deportation could work. In a May CBS News/New York Times poll, only a third of respondents said that illegal immigrants should be deported; even among that hard-nosed third, 42 percent said that finding and deporting most illegal immigrants wouldn't be possible.

On the other hand, mass amnesty, even with conditions attached, splits the country. Rewarding millions for breaking the law seems unfair and anti-social. And any blanket scheme to regularize illegal immigrants, regardless of what it's called, risks attracting more of them.

No wonder Washington is paralyzed. But state and local governments are not.

"Nature abhors a vacuum, and the current federal law is not enforceable and is not being enforced," says Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat. "So states and local governments are jumping into the fray." This year Arizona passed a law suspending the business licenses of companies that intentionally hire illegal workers; a second offense means revocation. (The law is being tested in court.) Arizona is not alone: States have enacted 244 immigration-related laws in 2007, almost triple the number enacted in 2006, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many of these new laws make life harder for unauthorized immigrants.

According to the NCSL, Tennessee and West Virginia passed employer sanctions similar to Arizona's. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah curtailed state benefits to illegal residents.

A few places, however, have gone the other way. Illinois made it a civil-rights violation for employers to demand more or different documents than those required by U.S. immigration law. San Francisco is moving to issue municipal identification cards regardless of recipients' legal status. Spitzer, a Democrat, tried to go in the same direction (and might have had better luck if his effort had been less ham-handed).

Washington's own backyard is a microcosm of the ferment: Anne Arundel County in Maryland and Prince William and Loudoun counties in Virginia have pursued measures cracking down on illegal immigrants; Virginia's Arlington County, along with the municipalities of Manassas Park, Va., and Takoma Park, Md., have fired back with resolutions repudiating such crackdowns.

When analysts notice this welter of state and local activity, they tend to dismiss it as a stopgap, a second-class substitute for action in Washington. They should consider the opposite possibility: that local activity is a _precondition_ for effective federal action. At the moment, there are three reasons that states and localities are better suited than Washington to cope with illegal residents.

First, states and localities can experiment, and thus innovate. They can learn. If illegal immigrants are offered ID cards or special driver's licenses, how many will come forward to take them? If health benefits are cut, will emergency-room costs rise? How reliably can regulators and prosecutors tell if illegal workers were hired on purpose? What will an employment crackdown do to the local economy? These are empirical questions that need experiential answers. States and localities are ideally positioned to do the research.

Second, localization allows for variety. Some communities are up in arms about illegal residents; others welcome them. Some feel besieged economically; others have jobs going begging. There is no reason Phoenix and Manhattan, or Detroit and Raleigh, or Prince William County and Arlington County should have the same policy—not, at least, until the country as a whole has a much clearer idea of what it wants to do.

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  • iowan||

    I agree with Thoreau who agress with MikeP

  • ||

    Leave it up to the locals sounds good in theory but it is a bait and switch. As soon as localities actually try to do something about illegal immigration, they will be slapped down by liberal minded judges. Give it a few years for the current local measures to get before the courts and all these measures will be ended. The pro immigration elites will not rest until the entire country, sans their neighborhoods of course, is a third world slum full a new proletariat marginalized and ready to be exploited allowing American elites to live the lives of and have the unaccountable power Latin American elites have always had and American elites have always dreamed of.

  • ||

    Another good example of the backlash backlash is the farmers in Florida. Lots of stories about crops dying in the fields because of a labor shortage.

  • ||

    "Another good example of the backlash backlash is the farmers in Florida. Lots of stories about crops dying in the fields because of a labor shortage"

    That is a myth Joe. Show me the stories. I would like to see the links that show real statistics not just anecdotes about this or that crooked truck farmer who couldn't get a field or two in because of lack of labor.

  • ||

    iowan is correct, IMO.

  • iowan||

    The pro immigration elites will not rest until the entire country, sans their neighborhoods of course, is a third world slum full a new proletariat marginalized and ready to be exploited allowing American elites to live the lives of and have the unaccountable power Latin American elites have always had and American elites have always dreamed of.

    However, I disagree with John . . .

  • ||

    The stories I saw, John, were on Florida TV stations.

    Look them up yourself, not that you would do such a thing as research your opinions before spouting them off.

    Funny, you don't "need statistics" for any of your points about emergency rooms and "cultural change," do you?

  • x,y||

    John is dead wrong, but the onus is on you, joe, to provide evidence to support your claims (even moreso when called on to support your conclusions).

  • ||

    I would say the onus is on the party making the extraordinary claim.

    To say that farmers are unhappy about having their farm workers taken away is hardly extraordinary.

  • ||

    Purely anecdotal, but I haven't heard anything about this labor shortage in Florida. Of course, I also don't watch the local news. From what I've seen, most of Mexico appears to be working the fields here, regardless of our immigration policy.

    I did hear something on NPR this morning about Aspen needing more foreign workers. Skiing and agriculture, together again.

  • ||

    Wow, the second hit on Google was the internet text of the story I saw when I was in Florida this summer.

  • ||

    Wow, the second hit on Google was the internet text of the story I saw when I was in Florida this summer.

    Not enough workers to harvest Florida oranges


    Lakeland, Florida (AP) - The Sunshine State has plenty of oranges on its trees. Trouble is there aren't enough people to pick them.

    Florida citrus industry officials warn between three and six million boxes of oranges may not be harvested this year, as a result. If the worst case scenario proves true, it'll be the state's lowest orange production since 1992.

    Officials blame talk of immigration crackdowns for their difficulty in finding Hispanic workers, who comprise much of Florida's farm work force. One grower says word spread through the Hispanic community that people had to return home if they wanted future jobs in the US.


    From Tampa Channel 10. Search on "Florida Farmers Immigrants"

  • ||

    Purely anecdotal, but I haven't heard anything about this labor shortage in Florida. Of course, I also don't watch the local news. From what I've seen, most of Mexico appears to be working the fields here, regardless of our immigration policy.

    You're probably going to get a better feel for whether or not there's a labor shortage by looking at the going cost of labor than you are by anything you're going to see on the news. Is the price of labor going up or down?

  • ||

    It's tough to collect data on illegal workers' wages.

  • ||

    Never heard about it. Did hear that some killer orange tree disease is going to wipe us out. I mean our orange trees, not the people.

    What's hurting the immigrant labor as opposed to industry is the housing market debacle. A huge percentage of contract labor here is from Mexico (and from parts of South America and the Caribbean)--no idea what they're doing now that new housing is down to a trickle.

  • Kolohe||

    The pro immigration elites will not rest until the entire country, sans their neighborhoods of course, is a third world slum full a new proletariat marginalized and ready to be exploited allowing American elites to live the lives of and have the unaccountable power Latin American elites have always had and American elites have always dreamed of.

    So, the problem with Mexico is that it's filled with mexicans?

    And if the US is filled with Mexicans, it will become exactly like Mexico?

    I guess this makes sense, after all Boston is no different from Belfast, San Francisco is no different from Shanghai.

  • ||

    As someone who worked at the Minnesota Legislature I heard a lot of stories from apple growers who said they would be devastated by deportations of illegal immigrants, and they paid $18/hr...

  • ||

    Since liberal judges are concerned with the civil rights of immigrants, that means they want immigrants to serve as an exploitable proletariat.

    Sure, that makes sense. All you have to do is draw devil horns on liberals and judges, and the rest just flows from that.

  • ||

    Florida citrus industry officials warn between three and six million boxes of oranges may not be harvested this year, as a result.

    What you have here is an industry with a vested interest in cheap labor, making a prediction that without immigrant labor they won't be able to pick their crops.

    I don't exactly find the self-interested statements of lobbying organizations to be compelling data.

    Now, what would be interesting is real data about how many oranges actually went unpicked in Florida this year.

  • ||

    If this was an argument about the economics of immigrant labor, you'd have a point, that would be better data.

    But it's not. It's an argument about whether there would be a political backlash resulting from the enforcement of immigration laws.

  • fishmonger||

    " 'The centrality of illegal immigration to the current discontent about the direction of the country may be taking us back again to a welfare moment, write Stanley Greenberg, Al Quinlan, and James Carville…' "

    Anyone out there know WTF this means?

  • VM||

    Do We Underestimate the Benefits of Cultural Competition
    by
    Bryan Capaln and Tyler Cowen
    May 2004.

    Now what would a person suffering from anti-foreign bias tend to think about culture? He would overrate the importance of his national culture and underrate the contributions of other countries and regions.

    He would neglect the importance of cultural exchange and exaggerate the case for protectionism. The more successfully a foreign competitor infiltrates his national market, the stronger the impulse to vilify it as junk.

  • ||

    Oh, yeah, Hillary Clinton.

    I got what she was saying right away, and the charges of flip-flopping and incoherence are just political sniping.

    She should have made her point by turning the discussion back to the relevant issue: federal immigration law.

    "Our immigration policy is so absurd, so incoherent, so implausible that it puts officials like Governor Spitzer in an impossible position. In a sane world, of course it wouldn't make sense to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, but with the situation as screwy as it is, I don't blame him for putting the safety of his state before conformance to the nonsensical federal law. What we need to do is stop putting our law enforcement officials in this position, by changing the law."

  • TLB||

    Yet more support for corporatism from Reason.

    Here's what Rauch doesn't know about SanFrancisco's program.

    As for RickSwartz, at least he registered, so give him points for that. Subtract points from Rauch for not mentioning that registration.

    As for IL, read up on this group.

    And, of course, even the president of Mexico has explicitly stated that they're going to be using U.S. nonprofits to promote the MexicanAgenda inside the U.S..

    Maybe we should ask Ron Paul about Reason. Are they really a libertarian site? If so, why do they keep supporting and enabling illegal activity, corruption and corporatism?

  • ||

    When analysts notice this welter of state and local activity, they tend to dismiss it as a stopgap, a second-class substitute for action in Washington.

    Of course, the framers of the Constitution fully expected immigration issues to be handled by the states. That's why the federal government was given the power to establish rules of naturalization, but not rules of immigration or residence.

    That is not to say that a US government that actually felt itself constrained by such nuances as constitutionality couldn't have fixed this by amendment in 1880 or 1920 or, indeed, today.

  • ||

    You're the only corporatist here, TLB. You want the government to keep enforcing laws that provide a cheap, exploitable workforce to corporations that want one.

  • vm||

    "Funny, you don't "need statistics" for any of your points about emergency rooms and "cultural change," do you?"

    um, joe - i sincerely doubt he'd understand "statistics". he is a meletary loier. The definition of a loier is someone who flunked math and is scared of blood.

    since math is a staple in the elite liberal arts institutions, and the educated elite can use statistics to show anything they want, and and and....

    THE SOLITARY BATSHIT INSANEWACKJOB showedUp!

    yay!

    hay - nativist fuckface - get someone to read (slowly) the Caplan article to you. it's online. That person would have to typeItIn the SearchBar, of course, too.

  • Sam I Am||

    Now what would a person suffering from anti-foreign anti-American bias tend to think about culture? He would overrate underrate the importance of his national culture and underrate overrate the contributions of other countries and regions.

    He would neglect exaggerate the importance of cultural exchange and exaggerate neglect the case for protectionism. The more successfully a foreign competitor infiltrates local competitor defends his national market, the stronger the impulse to vilify it as junk.

    Fixed.

  • ||

    I agree with Dangerman who agrees with iowan who agrees with Thoreau that we should all defer to MikeP on this bad puppy.

  • iowan||

    I am glad to see that prolefeed pick up on the proper format of the chain that Dangerman failed to achieve even though he expressed the correct sentiment.

  • VM||

    We have secretly substituted "Sam I Am's" Green Eggs with "Frank's Purple Egg Substitute".

    Let's see if he notices...

  • VM||

    Not much into econ, there, are you, Sam...

  • ||

    I think Sam I Am has a point.

    Not about the position he appears to be advocating, but in pointing out that the bias charge cuts both ways.

  • iowan||

    I talk of freedom
    you talk of the flag
    I talk of revolution
    you'd much rather brag
    and as the decibels of this disenchanting discourse continue to dampen the day

  • Click \'n\' Learn||

    joe: let me suggest writing this down on a card for future reference.

    1. Our laws are barely enforced now.
    2. If they were enforced as I would like, there wouldn't be an exploited foreign proletariat for the bourgeoise Oppressors to oppress.
    3. Stories similar to the one about the oranges have been "planted" in corrupt papers for years. If you search for CropsRottingFields at my site you'll see about a dozen of them, all simply ProCheapLaborPropaganda.

  • VM||

    joe -

    read the article and point out where you see bias. That I'll listen to. I'll make fun of the wackjob or SamIAm for doing the anti clinton "ooh, let's change the words" game.

  • iowa||

    Pre . . . . buttal . . . .

  • ||

    If they were enforced as I would like, there wouldn't be an exploited foreign proletariat for the bourgeoise Oppressors to oppress.

    And this is where we disagree. I don't think that turning up the screws on enforcement is going to make a dent in the number of immigrants, any more than it worked to limit the importation of liquor in the 20s or pot in the 80s and 90s. All it's going to do is turn up the heat on those exploited immigrant workers, making them even easier to screw over.

  • ||

    VM,

    I'm not saying there is bias in the article, just pointing out that there is just as much temptation towards confirmation bias among those I consider the good guys as among their opponents.

  • VM||

    ah - yes, certainly that is the case!

    good call!

  • LarryA||

    Maybe we should ask Ron Paul about Reason. Are they really a libertarian site? If so, why do they keep supporting and enabling illegal activity, corruption and corporatism?

    If crossing the border from Mexico (or Canada) wasn't against the law, it wouldn't be illegal. If it wasn't illegal there would be far fewer opportunities for corruption. If workers weren't illegal they could compete to work for employers who would have to pay at least minimum wage and more likely a competitive wage, and follow labor standards. This is of much greater benefit to small business than to corporations.

    What you have here is an industry with a vested interest in cheap labor, making a prediction that without immigrant labor they won't be able to pick their crops.

    If they don't pick their crops, you don't eat their crops.

    Now, what would be interesting is real data about how many oranges actually went unpicked in Florida this year.

    What will be more interesting is how the price of orange juice goes through the roof.

    If they were enforced as I would like, there wouldn't be an exploited foreign proletariat for the bourgeoisie Oppressors to oppress.

    Right on! Instead of coming North, working for four months at a hard job no one else wants, and earning more than he could earn in twelve months of hard labor in Mexico, if he could find a job; the no-longer-oppressed laborer can sit at home in Mexico and watch his children starve.

    Our laws are barely enforced now.

    One of the characteristics of a good law is that most people support it without enforcement being necessary. Any law so unpopular or convoluted that it requires massive police effort needs revoking.

  • ||

    Larry has the nub of it. Immigration is the mess it is because the *legal* immigration is screwed up. The legal quota of about 25,000 to 30,000 Mexicans per year is simply nonsense. It was written back in the 1960s when they didn't even discuss Mexicans, the debate was about Europeans and Asians. Mexicans just migrated seasonally and no-one in Washington was paying attention.

    It is a crazy and stupid way to deal with a neighbor. Put the legal immigration at a more realistic 100,000 per year, trim back the family ties rules, clear the backlog (about 30 years wait) and put in place a rational guest worker program. It will do far more to make the border controllable than any amount of barbed wire, concrete, and surveillance gadgets. Although of course it is less of a boondoggle, always a problem in D.C.

    Immigration is a mess not because of the lack of a good fence but because of the lack of good sense. 30 years of bad law needs fundamental reform, not escalating force.

  • ||

    I don't believe in legal immigration as well. Legal immigrants are tortured who live in this country and play by the rules. There are immigrants who have spend 8+ years working for american economy who had not received a green card yet. Do you guys are talking about illegal immigrations? I would like to guess what would be the waiting time to be a citizen.... a lifetime.... get buried in america.....

  • ||

    This 20 year plus Dem will be voting Repub for the first time.

    The Dems are now the Illegals Party. They vote for laws that benefit illegals and harm Americans.

    The Dems are now the RACIST Party. With amnesty Hisapanics are being give a HUGE PREFERENCE over all other Americans who want to have their families and races come to America.

    Why do HISPANICS get 10 MILLLION PLACES IN THE USA FOR CITIZENSHIP.. and other RACES DO NOT?

    This violates the anti discrimination clause of our constitutiona and the equal protection clause.

    DEMOCRATS = THE RACIST PARTY.

    DEMOCRATIC PARTY .... ONLY FOR HISPANICS

    If we want to be country that believes in the law, every single illegal must be deported. If not, please tell me when I can obtain the following:

    - 15 years amnesty on the failure to pay taxes
    - 15 years of not making any deductions from my wages.
    - 15 years of taxpayer supported benefits at 22,000 per year.
    = get out of jail free cards for criminal acts. Lets see the illegals get tax evasion, entry to the country iullegally, Id theft, driving without a license, insurance, taxes, igtnoning court orders, working illegal etc.

    And what is my reward for breaking the law? The illegals are going to get citzenship. That is HUGE. I want at least 10 million dollars.

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