Immigration

Obama's Anti-Immigrant Stance

Under the guise of immigration enforcement, the White House pushes a pro-union agenda.

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When it comes to immigration policy, President Obama has found his inner Machiavelli. He has devised an enforcement approach that at once disarms conservatives, delights labor unions, and minimizes bad feelings within the Hispanic community. All this might help him keep his job, but only by killing others'.

Last month, the administration announced a renewed crackdown against employers who hire undocumented aliens, notifying 1,000 of them to prepare for an audit raid. Under these raids, Immigration and Customs Enforcement inspectors descend upon companies and comb through their books, looking for irregularities.

Employees who don't have authorization to work or valid Social Security numbers are fired and sometimes arrested. And employers whose books show signs of under-the-table payments face fines, forfeiture, and jail.

The beauty of these raids, especially from the standpoint of PR within the Hispanic community, is that they seem more humane than the Bush administration's flashy workplace raids in which inspectors, TV cameras in tow, would crash a taqueria or a construction site, round up the workers, demand their papers, and arrest those who couldn't produce valid ones for future deportation. By contrast, a bunch of inspectors sitting around, quietly going through books doesn't seem that awful. But the impact of such silent raids on businesses and workers—both immigrant and American—is far more deadly.

For starters, because they don't require probable cause and are cheaper than the Bush raids, the Obama administration can conduct more of them. The Los Angeles Times reported even before the new crackdown that the number of employer raids had increased fourfold since 2008, and the fines collected from businesses grew sevenfold. Meanwhile, deportations were at a record high. This helps defuse accusations by enforcement-first conservatives that President Obama is soft on illegal immigrants. But the real purpose of the raids is, in the words of an Obama official, driving "unfair competition out of the market."

They target businesses in food production, information technology, financial services, construction, and other sectors regarded as "critical infrastructure and key resources" (and therefore, apparently, ripe for destruction). Chipotle, the Mexican fast-food chain, recently faced a multicity raid, forcing it to fire hundreds of workers, something that will hurt its financial results for the first time since it opened, diminishing its ability to expand. Meanwhile, American Apparel was forced to lay off more than a quarter of its factory workers after a 2009 audit, which it maintains has brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.

American Apparel might survive, but many small businesses such as San Diego's French Gourmet, a little eatery, and a West Coast franchise of Chuy's Mesquite Broiler, won't. French Gourmet's owner is facing $4 million in fines, 30 years in prison, and forfeiture of his restaurant building—all for the crime of having 12 undocumented aliens among his 120 employees. Likewise, Chuy's owners are looking at $10 million in fines and up to 83 years in prison. Serial rapists get milder punishments.

Beyond ruining the owners and undocumented workers, the raids will throw hundreds of Americans out of jobs when these restaurants shut down. Worse, future Chuy's Mesquites and French Gourmets, whose economics pan out only when they can keep some portion of their labor costs low, won't even come into existence. It is estimated that about 10 to 40 percent of workers in the restaurant business are undocumented, which means that 60 to 90 percent are not. Yet their jobs, too, will be jeopardized—at a time when unemployment has soared to 9.2 percent.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has been eying undocumented workers in the service sector to boost its flagging membership, broke ranks with the anti-immigration stance of its sister unions some years ago and has condemned the Obama raids. But the AFL-CIO, UAW, and others are quietly cheering them on. Incidentally, none of the unions, not even the SEIU, supports a guest worker program that would give unskilled immigrants legal options to work in the country, eliminating the root cause of the illegal problem.

Nor is the administration's jihad against foreign workers limited to the undocumented category. It also backed legislation by congressional Democrats to double the fee for H1-B visas—a temporary work permit for highly skilled workers—for companies whose work force contains 50 percent foreign workers. This mainly affects a handful of Indian companies, raising their visa costs by $250 million annually.

Administration apologists claim that these tactics are meant to create the political space for comprehensive immigration reform. But the president has made literally no effort to advance that objective. What he has advanced is a labor agenda under the guise of immigration policy.

The great hope from President Obama when he took office was that, having spent his formative years abroad, he'd understand—and use his bully pulpit to help the American public understand, too—that immigration is not a zero-sum game: Immigrants seeking a better life make America better off, just as his family made the countries where they lived better off. Instead, he has pandered to Republicans' parochialism and labor's protectionism to advance his own political prospects.

This is change, but there isn't much hope in it—for immigrants, American workers, or the American economy.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and a columnist for The Daily, America's first iPad newspaper, where this column originally appeared.

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  1. under the guise of immigration enforcement, the White House is pushing a pro-union, job-killing agenda.

    Simplified.

  2. “we have to abandon free market principles to save the free market”

  3. There’s that skinny wrist again. What a milktoast (sp).

  4. Of course, if it cost less to live in America, lower wages wouldn’t be a problem for legal citizens.

    But, hey, Con Agra should keep charging $4 for a can of corn and expect people to be happy with making $2 an hour.

    1. Of course, if douchebags like you didn’t defend the Federal Reserve, an institution who’s stated goal is to devalue people’s savings and prevent them from saving “too much”, and a gargantuan federal bureaucracy which throws a wrench into productive activity at every turn, then things would be less expensive.

  5. So I have got to ask, what does he think will happen when all these illegals lose their jobs? Americans who can make more on welfare or unemployment with medicaid benefits won’t step in, so as businesses close there will be more economic downturn. If wages go up, with or without a union, more Americans will go to work, prices will go up causing inflation. I don’t really understand who could possibly win in this scenario. It would be best for the economy if we just put immigration on the back burner and be thankful for the cheap labor. I know that sounds harsh, but it is obviously still better than in their own country. Why in the world would we deport people who want to work in order to subsidize the lazy poor in our own country?

    1. Re: Joe,

      Why in the world would we deport people who want to work in order to subsidize the lazy poor in our own country?

      Because the lazy poor vote Democrat. The immigrants can’t vote, and the American Latinos are becoming fed up with Obama pretty quickly. The lazy poor still remain unconditionally for Obama, all the way to ignominy itself if necessary.

    2. Why in the world would we deport people who want to work in order to subsidize the lazy poor in our own country?

      So you are saying you are in favor of keeping them here to subsidize the “lazy poor”?

      How about this instead: deport illegal aliens so that the “lazy poor” can actually get jobs for themselves?

      Now, those “lazy poor” don’t want to work for less than minimum wage, and I don’t blame them. Pay a decent wage, cut off the infinite unemployment benefits, and the poor can get back to work. American citizens once did jobs like maid service or picking fruit. They can do it again.

      1. Re: John Rohan,

        How about this instead: deport illegal aliens so that the “lazy poor” can actually get jobs for themselves?

        They won’t.

        Now, those “lazy poor” don’t want to work for less than minimum wage, and I don’t blame them. Pay a decent wage, cut off the infinite unemployment benefits, and the poor can get back to work.

        “Pay”? Who are to pay? What’s a “decent wage”? Because if the lazy poor are not willing to work for at least the minimum, what makes you think employers will pay MORE to have lazy people work?

        American citizens once did jobs like maid service or picking fruit.

        Yeah, once, before the Great Era of Compulsory High School “Education.” Now, Americans feel TOO QUALIFIED to pick up fruit or someone’s dirty towels.

        Nitwit.

        1. “Yeah, once, before the Great Era of Compulsory High School “Education.” Now, Americans feel TOO QUALIFIED to pick up fruit or someone’s dirty towels.”

          So why are most jobs mostly native born ??

          http://www.cis.org/illegalImmigration-employment

          1. This is stupid. Right off the bat, these idiots talk about “immigrants” not “illegal immigrants”. The link indicates “illegal immigrants”, but the title refers to “immigrant employment”. The “jobs Americans won’t do applied to illegal immigrants”. To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe there actually are people stupid enough to claim all immigrants (legal and otherwise) only take the jobs Americans don’t do.

    3. Aw Gee! This was to be my argument as well!
      You said it better as far as it went.
      Except for the fact that I, along with millions of other Americans, represent a different perspective. We are those nasty and pesky folks who fully believe in applying the rule of law ‘equally’ in this country! To single out businesses as being the only “reachable” offenders belies the fact that these “Illegals” are in this country, duh, well, ILLEGALLY! And, that we have Federal laws which can and “could” close down our hyper-immigration problem, if only the Jackasses in the WH and some of the chuckle-heads in Congress stopped using this as a tool to increase Democratic voter registration rolls. Immigration cannot be put “on the back burner”, Obama has seen to that. It is part and parcel of his “Trash America and Get Re-elected” campaign. So I say that we give the fool what he doesn’t want: a full-out national debate and referendum on the advisability of continued “Amnesty” programs (especially those implemented by Executive Order as an “end around” the wishes of Congress and the American people.
      Obama’s sudden interest in the enforcement of immigration policies exclusively against American businesses who hire illegals tells any sane American that the “Liar-in Chief’s” true agenda lies elsewhere.
      I also do not subscribe to Shikha Dalmia’s rather polly-anna nostrum that immigrants seeking a better life make America better off. There are too many crimes and extended benefits to these folks to give that argument any credence. I do not advocate “isolationism” and the total closure of our borders to LEGAL immigrants: but I do insist that immigration laws be enforced.
      By the way Joe, I also support a full audit of the Federal Reserve!

      1. I totally agree. But I would say we have bigger fish to fry. Economy first, immigration later. Besides, deporting these illegals will only accomplish shutting down these businesses and nothing else as long as our border is not secure.

        How ’bout this for an idea! Illegal aliens being used to build a fence on the border. They can even get paid, albeit at prison lower rates. We can even give them a penal colony place to live.

        Actually, that is not a bad idea.
        During the fence building they can be working on legally emigrating…

      2. but I do insist that immigration laws be enforced

        Either enforce them or repeal them.

    4. HA HA HA – most 99 week unemployment benefits have run out for the long term unemployed. They’ll do the jobs. The rest is all BS.

  6. French Gourmet’s owner is facing $4 million in fines, 30 years in prison, and forfeiture of his restaurant building?all for the crime of having 12 undocumented aliens among his 120 employees.

    Fucking incentives- how do they work?

    1. “Just imagine that instead of going to jail when you murdered someone, you got an ice cream cone. If that we the case, then in the summer time, everyone would go around killing people for the pleasure of an ice cream cone.” -Michael Scott

    2. Fucking incentives- how do they work?

      If a business employs half illegals and that business is immediately required to fire them, how does that affect the other (legal) half if that business then goes out of business?

    3. The owners of the businesses should be been thrown in jail for hiring illegal aliens in the first place. If the business cannot succeed without using illegal labor, it should be put out of business period.

      Who cares if the legal residents get thrown out of business too – IT IS AN ILLEGAL OPERATION.

      How about this analogy? There is a brothel that has a doorman, bookeeper, maybe a doctor on staff. The vice squad raids the brothel – so it is wrong the the doorman, bookkeeper and doctor lose their jobs? Are you kidding me?

      It would be a good article if Omama was using the immigration enforcement to target non-union shops only.

  7. what does he think will happen when all these illegals lose their jobs?

    Out-of-work mortgage brokers are clamoring for the opportunity to wash dishes and clean grease traps! Those damn Mexican done tuk dere jerbs.

  8. “Incidentally, none of the unions, not even the SEIU, supports a guest worker program that would give unskilled immigrants legal options to work in the country, eliminating the root cause of the illegal problem.”

    Can we all agree to never use the term root cause ever again?

  9. Obama’s Anti-Immigrant Stance

    Under the guise of immigration enforcement, the White House pushes a pro-union agenda.

    Oh? So you FINALLY noticed it, huh?

  10. Beyond ruining the owners and undocumented workers, the raids will throw hundreds of Americans out of jobs when these restaurants shut down.

    The FDR administration was doing the same thing during the 30’s, cracking down on totally LEGAL immigrants from Mexico, supposedly to mitigate unemployment; in reality, it was a ploy to appease the Teamsters and other unions. Obviously, it did not lower the unemployment rate at all.

  11. Another article that shows there are little more than slight differences between Team Red and Team Blue.

  12. Nor is the administration’s jihad against foreign workers limited to the undocumented category. It also backed legislation by congressional Democrats to double the fee for H1-B visas?a temporary work permit for highly skilled workers?for companies whose work force contains 50 percent foreign workers. This mainly affects a handful of Indian companies, raising their visa costs by $250 million annually.

    I remember in November 2010 when Obama fled to India to trumpet free trade right after the Democrats lost their majority in the house.

  13. What the US needs is CHINESE illegal aliens!

    Their children won’t drop out of school like Latino children do (61% in Los Angeles), their daughters will wait until they’re of age and can afford it before breeding (48% of births to Latinas in the US were to single mothers), they’ll commit a microscopic number of crimes compared to their Mexican / Central American neighbors and they’ll have a Confucian aversion to sucking off the government tit!

    With 40% of American high school graduates unemployed, 30% working part time and the glorious, beauteous welfare state going bankrupt, maybe it’s time we get US citizens out in the fields, washing dishes and babysitting. In large areas of the US, they still do!

    Mestizos and Indios cost too much.

  14. Right on Obama! Wow, I never thought I would actually applaud him for something. I must be ill, time to go home.

  15. Attention all Revolutionary Workers Resettlement Cadre,
    People’s population resettlement initiative proceeds apace. Transportation capacity currently at 500,000/day. On track to reach 25 million per month by March, 2013. By December 2013 400 million comrades must be resettled to territory currently claimed by US imperialists. All cadre must redouble efforts to institute US open borders policy. Potential capacity in Tibet and Mongolia decline. New frontiers for socialist worker resettlement are essential. That is all,

    Comrade Dong
    Peoples’ Revolutionary Resettlement Cadre

  16. Businesses that rely on illegal aliens in order to pay a below market wage are part of the problem and not worthy of our sympathy. Busting them is appropriate and will not support a higher union wage, as the unions have already priced themselves out of lots of work.

    1. Workers who rely on prohibition of the labor of competing workers in order to receive an above market wage are virtually all of the problem and not worthy of our sympathy. Given the massive abrogation of individual rights involved in that prohibition, ending it is appropriate.

      1. What a bunch of nonsensical bs – so we should import all the Chinese immigrants that make less than $1 per day?

        1. No. But any who wish to migrate themselves should be free to live and work where they can find agreeable terms.

          1. If citizens derive no advantage to their citizenship, then there is no point to sovereignty at all. Are you an anarchist, nihilist, or just a greedy bastard who is too cheap to pay an American a decent wage?

            With 40% of native born high school graduates out of work right now, your basic premise is indeed nonsense.

            1. If citizens derive no advantage to their citizenship, then there is no point to sovereignty at all.

              The point to sovereignty is that citizens can institute a government that better secures their unalienable rights than some other government does.

              Abrogating those same unalienable rights for noncitizens is decidedly not the point of sovereignty.

              1. Who says? You? Noncitizens who are here illegally have the right to a speedy deportation, how’s that?

                What other nation of the world gives noncitizens the same rights as citizens if they are illegally trespassing?

                1. What other nation of the world has in its very founding document the notion that rights are not given by governments, only secured by them?

  17. And if you think there aren’t Americans who will do those jobs, you are part of the problem too, as you imagine that every American fits your mold of lazy, welfare/unemployment benefit sucking layabout wanting something for nothing. Which is a pretty ignorant idea fostered by open borders advocates that want low wage immigrant labor.

    1. Of course not all. About what portion of the welfare/unployment roles would you guess are made of up “welfare/unemployment benefit sucking layabouts wanting something for nothing”?

  18. I’ve got a better solution. Continue enforcing our laws, and get rid of the minimum wage. There are tons of teenagers that are looking for part-time jobs that could fill these positions, but the minimum wage makes them unhireable, so employers have to go the illegal route. Get rid of the job-killing minimum wage and those jobs will fill up quickly with citizens. Farm jobs might be different, but this column wasn’t about farm jobs.

  19. SGT TED: It’s not a market wage, it’s a minimum wage mandated by the government. That’s the problem, not the employers trying to run a business.

  20. Another STUPID idea he has come up with, as usual hurt the working people. If we don’t get him out of office he will finish our country off as he and his puppetmasters have planed. Semper Fi.

  21. the impact of such silent raids on businesses and workers?both immigrant and American?is far more deadly.

    What the hell? There is zero impact on law abiding businesses and on workers who are legally in the country.

  22. the real purpose of the raids is, in the words of an Obama official, driving “unfair competition out of the market.”

    I’m not seeing why we’re supposed to view this as a BAD thing. Do you support unfair competition?

  23. Beyond ruining the owners and undocumented workers

    The criminal owners and criminal workers?

    Worse, future Chuy’s Mesquites and French Gourmets, whose economics pan out only when they can keep some portion of their labor costs low

    If you want to say “whose economics pan out only when they can break the law”, why don’t you muster the intellectual courage to say that?

    Incidentally, none of the unions, not even the SEIU, supports a guest worker program that would give unskilled immigrants legal options to work in the country, eliminating the root cause of the illegal problem.

    The root cause of the illegal problem is that this country is extremely corrupt. That is, this is a country where the rule of law is treated as a joke by those in positions of power. They are encouraged in their contempt for the law by the badly misnamed “Reason”.

    1. It took this long through the comments to find someone with common sense – congrats.

    2. Best comment yet. My hat is off to you, Herr M.!

  24. Nor is the administration’s jihad against foreign workers limited to the undocumented category. It also backed legislation by congressional Democrats to double the fee for H1-B visas?a temporary work permit for highly skilled workers?for companies whose work force contains 50 percent foreign workers. This mainly affects a handful of Indian companies, raising their visa costs by $250 million annually.

    Oh, no! We can’t have that! Dalmia’s fellow Indians might have slightly more difficulty in getting jobs in America, and her entire excuse for writing at Reason is to argue the case for her fellow Indians.

  25. So, you support system where employers can exploit illegals by paying them wages bellow legal minimum, all without any risk for themselves?

    Of course, Obama’s action plan must be complemented with work and residence permits for necessary workers (as is common in Europe), but Republicans will oppose it as long as there is abundance of illegal workers ready to work for pittance and employers ready to hire them.

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