Immigration

If You Oppose Punishing and Deporting Undocumented Workers, You Should Also Oppose Punishing Employers that Hire Them

Punishing employers is unjust for many of the same reasons as punishing the workers. And doing so harms the workers, too.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

A protest against ICE raids.

Last week's ICE raids on undocumented workers in Mississippi—the largest of its kind—has drawn widespread protest for brutally separating parents from their children and deporting migrants whose only sin is escaping poverty and oppression in their homelands by finding job opportunities in the US. The protests are justified. But some critics also complain that ICE targeted workers, without also penalizing their employers. For example, CNN commentator Jake Tapper simultaneously decried the humanitarian effects of the raids, and also criticized an administration official for failing to "hold buisnesses responsible for this."  Such complaints are not new. There is a long history of federal immigration enforcement agencies rarely penalizing employers, and critics complaining that they should do so more often, even as they also lament the harm ICE raids inflict on workers.

But if you truly believe that it is wrong to punish and deport undocumented workers, you also have every reason to oppose punishing the employers who hire them. Those who oppose deportation do so, at least in large part, because they believe (correctly, in my view) that these individuals should not be barred from starting a new life in the US and seeking opportunity here. But they cannot do that if they are effectively barred from holding jobs because anyone who hires them will be punished for doing so.

Some of the opposition to deportation is driven by the impact on families, most notably children (including many who are US citizens) separated from parents. But children also suffer if their parents are not allowed to work, and therefore cannot earn income to support their families.

Imagine that a person named Bob is seeking work to escape poverty and support his family. Congress enacts a bill known as Bob's Law. Under this legislation, Bob is allowed to live wherever he wants, and law enforcement agencies are forbidden to punish him for taking any job that might be offered him. But there's a catch: any business that hires Bob will be severely sanctioned for doing so, even though Bob himself will not be (perhaps they must pay a large fine, or the owner must go to prison, or both). Moreover, Congress earmarks funds for a special Bob's Law Enforcement Budget (BLOB), which can only be spent on prosecuting Bob's Law violators, so that officials will have a strong incentive to actually go after employers who dare hire Bob, as opposed to letting them off the hook.

Formally, Bob's Law doesn't constrain Bob in any way. The only people who can be punished are the employers who hire him. But, in reality, the law consigns Bob to a life of poverty and desperation, as he will either have to take shady black market jobs, or subsist on charity or welfare (if he can get it).  Bob's family will also suffer, of course, since he is unlikely to be able to support them with more than a paltry (and highly uncertain) income.

Bob's law is purely imaginary. But those who argue that the federal government should refrain from punishing undocumented workers, but rigorously prosecute the employers who hire them, are effectively advocating much the same sort of policy in real life. This regime would not target undocumented workers directly, but in practice it would consign them to much the same sort of miserable existence as Bob would face.

A "punish employers only" also prevents undocumented workers from contributing to the economy as much as they otherwise would. Rigorously prosecuting employers who hire them ensures that they will either be unable to find work at all, or will only be able to do so in underground enterprises, where they are likely to be less productive than at legitimate enterprises.

Targeting businesses is also likely to harm US-citizen workers, as well as undocumented ones. The types of measures employers would have to adopt to ensure compliance are likely to exclude many citizen workers, or at least put them through bureaucratic nightmares, such as those inflicted by the E-Verify system, mandated by some states.

Some might argue that the employers should be punished regardless of consequences, because they have violated the law. But, of course, the same thing can be said for the workers. In the case of the latter, opponents of deportation rightly point out that the laws in question are so deeply unjust that migrants are justified in violating them. Moreover, in a world where we have vastly more violators of federal law than the government can possibly punish, law enforcement should focus its resources on enforcing those laws that have the strongest moral justifications. "Just enforce the law" is not a viable moral theory in a world where many laws on the books are deeply unjust, and it is in any event impossible to punish more than a small fraction of violators. These objections apply to employer sanctions in much the same way as attempts to punish workers. Indeed, efforts to punish the former almost inevitably harm the latter, as well.

If you nonetheless do believe that all laws should be enforced to the hilt,  regardless of how unjust, than you cannot also argue that the government should let undocumented workers go, but punish their employers. Both are lawbreakers, after all.

Another possible variant of the "punish employers only" theory is that these businesses should be blamed for the poor conditions under which many undocumented workers labor. If employment conditions are your beef, then you should at least advocate limiting enforcement actions only to cases where conditions fall below whatever you believe to be the right minimum standard. There should be no general effort to punish employers of undocumented immigrants, as such.

You should also keep in mind that government-mandated employee benefits tend to result in a combination of reduced employment, reduction of salary and/or other employee benefits, or some combination of both. Undocumented workers might prefer worse conditions with higher pay to the opposite combination. At the very least, the more you care about the welfare of these workers, the more you should hesitate to support policies that forcibly reduce the range of options available to them, at least in the absence of strong evidence that those measures will make them better off.

Obviously, there are cases where employers use coercion or fraud to abuse undocumented workers. Where that happens, there is good reason to punish them, as is also true of employers who inflict similar abuse on other employees. Unlike in the case of poor working conditions that employees might willingly accept in exchange for higher pay, coercion and fraud are not voluntary transactions, and usually don't leave workers better off than they would be otherwise. But mandatory infliction of sanctions on all employers of undocumented workers actually makes it more difficult to root out such genuine abuses. Workers are unlikely to report abusive employers if doing so will predictably lead to them losing their jobs, because the employers are not allowed to hire them in the first place, and the government will terminate those jobs if it finds out about them.

In sum, if you oppose punishment of undocumented workers, you should also oppose punishing their employers. The latter inflicts much the same injustices as the former, including by harming the workers themselves.

 

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  1. This should lead to a wide-ranging and constructive dialogue in the comment section.

    1. Professor Somin,
      I take issue with one statement, which is not part of your main point but rankles nonetheless.
      You state: “For example, CNN commentator Jake Tapper…”
      Jake Tapper is not a “commentator.” He is a news anchor who professes to be a down-the-middle reporter (although he uses the pretentious “journalist”).
      That you describe him as a commentator is obviously telling.

      1. Tapper provides editorial cartoons. Your comment is daft.

  2. The employers are more culpable and far less likely to be held to account, particularly by Republicans and especially by this administration. Let’s watch how the clingers handle the guy whose company was caught with hundreds of rounded-up workers, for example.

    Another year and one-half of this stuff. Then the backlash.

    1. Backlash, lol.

      Progressives consist of a tiny percentage of the population. A majority of the American public, even if they don’t like Trump personally, agree with the policies he’s enacted, for the most part.

      You’re delusional if you think he won’t be re-elected.

      1. More people voted for Clinton than voted for Trump. A majority of the acres in America agree with Trump policies.

        1. Clinton’s entire popular vote majority occurred in one State (California). In the other 49 States, collectively, Trump won by 1.5 million.

          1. So what? Does California not count somehow?

            Not enough acres?

            Trump got a 3.5 million vote margin in the former Confederate states. In the other 39 states Clinton won by eight million.

            Can we keep on making up combinations?

            1. It’s more to the point that Trump plus right-leaning candidates got more votes than Clinton plus left-leaning candidates. Hillary’s popular vote plurality was a product of the opposition to her being divided, not due to her being hugely popular.

              I think it would be interesting to see how the popular vote, however irrelevant it is in Presidential elections, would come out if Republicans actually bothered contesting California, rather than giving it up as a lost cause. Maybe Trump will do that next year, he’s going to be a lot better funded than he was in 2016.

              1. Well, Brett, I suppose the Democrats might more strongly contest some areas they abandon also, so that’s not a one-sided effect.

                As for “Trump plus right-leaning candidates,” that’s mostly due to Gary Johnson, who got about 4.5 million votes. Stein got just under 1.5 million, doubling McMullen’s total. “Others,” a mixed bag of left and right, got about 1.2 million.

                Would Johnson voters have broken overwhelmingly for Trump had Johnson not been in the race? Probably Trump would have captured a majority of them, but he would need to make up a gap of 3,750,000 (counting Stein and McMullen). That means he would need over 90% of the Johnson voters. Seems implausible.

              2. Thanks to “top two” primary rules, California had two Democrats running for Senate, and roughly 20% of the congressional races didn’t have Republicans in the ballot. Thus, there was no real incentive for Republicans to vote, as California was safely in Clinton’s column. Most if not all of the states Clinton visited when her campaign analytics and the media told her she could humiliate Trump by flipping red states had Democrats seeking federal office.

                1. Lots of Senate and Congressional races had candidates running unopposed or with nominal opposition only.

                  You can’t single out CA for that, any more than you can claim Clinton’s popular vote total being higher than Trump’s somehow doesn’t count because California.

                  1. “Lots of Senate and Congressional races had candidates running unopposed or with nominal opposition only.”

                    How many Senate races during 2016 involved only two candidates from a single party? There’s only one, so yes, you can single California out for that.

                    The popular vote total is irrelevant in an election that isn’t decided by the popular vote, just as it’s irrelevant that more people voted against both Clinton and Trump than in favor of them. One of the criticisms of the Clinton campaign is the amount of time she spent raising money in California rather than campaigning in the battleground states.

              3. It’s more to the point that Trump plus right-leaning candidates got more votes than Clinton plus left-leaning candidates.

                That is a made up “fact.”

                The only way to make the math work is to count Gary Johnson, but he most certainly was not a right-leaning candidate. (Hell, his running mate all but told people to vote Hillary.)

      2. “You’re delusional if you think he won’t be re-elected.”

        The electorate in America’s next national election will be more diverse, more city-centered, more tolerant, less religious, and less backward than the electorate that gave Pres. Trump a chance at a three-cushion trick shot at the Electoral College.

        There are fewer clingers in America every day. America has been improving against the efforts and preferences of conservatives throughout our lives. That trajectory seems destined to continue.

        See you at the polls, clingers.

    2. Culpable of what, precisely?

      Remember, this is in the context of the immigration debate. Please enlighten us. How do you defend Tapper’s position that we should open immigration while simultaneously denying all those immigrants the opportunity to find legal employment?

      1. How do you defend Tapper’s position that we should open immigration while simultaneously denying all those immigrants the opportunity to find legal employment?

        Show me Tapper’s statements that we should open immigration.

        1. From the article above, Tapper “decried the humanitarian effects of the raids”. Do you somehow interpret that to mean that he supports the raids?

          Or are you saying that the article above is an incorrect characterization of Tapper’s comments?

          1. Come on, Rossami, you know better.

            What I am saying is that decrying “the humanitarian effects of the raids” is not the same thing as advocating open borders.

            Not supporting current enforcement methods is different than saying we should just throw open the gates.

            Advocating for more humane conditions in prisons is not the same as saying bank robbery should be legal. Arguing for various protections for accused criminals is not arguing that they are innocent.

    3. Can’t we just go back and pull numbers from the presidential administration that deported more people than anyone else and see what their record for punishing businesses is? Seems more fun than waiting a year and a half listening to Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” on repeat…

    4. Well, I consider myself a conservative, not a Republican. And I am all for punishing employers who knowingly violate the law.

      Of course, one difference is that most illegal aliens know they are such, whereas most employers have to rely on what they are told. But someone who is willfully blind to reality should indeed be punished.

    5. Don’t feed the troll

  3. If You Oppose Punishing and Deporting Undocumented Workers, You Should also Oppose Punishing Employers that Hire Them

    Serious question: Who doesn’t believe in both statements?

    1. Well, myself for one.

      I support punishing and deporting undocumented workers, correctly called illegal aliens, and punishing employers that hire them,

      Don’t like those things happening? Then get the law changed.

      1. Yup, I’m good with punishing them both, too.

      2. I’m for just going after employers, mostly for efficiency reasons. Make the fine 1000 per illegal employee per month employed, have a vigorous safe harbor provision so if they used e-verify they can get the case dropped early and cheaply, and too make it self enforcing, make it a private right of action so disgruntled employees and others can collect all of part of the fines for turning the employer in.

        People are reluctant to snitch on illegal aliens both because it’s a dick move, but in businesses when they can get a payoff? It will clean up the mess in an instant.

        1. I agree until we get to the snitching bit. Sounds a bit East German.
          Also risks generating lots of false accusations, and as we know the process is the punishment.

        2. I saw a suggestion a while back about the proper incentive is having the employer caught hiring illegal aliens, involves having the employer, required to sponsor each of the illegals for green cards. My understanding is the process is expensive and time consuming.
          The incentive for a construction company or meat processing operation, that hire by the 100’s to sponsor green cards is effective and scale-able

          1. That’s a fun and satisfying solution.

          2. They don’t obey laws. Your solution: more laws for them to ignore. Will that work?

            It sounds clever. Sounding clever was 100% of the point of mentioning it. So congrats.

            1. Let the punishment fit the crime… More clever than your attempt at a post.

              1. They already escape punishment for breaking existing law.

                I wasn’t trying to be clever. The last thing the world needs is a bunch of dudes trying to say clever things.

        3. I totally agree with this. I do think there needs to be a safe-harbor provision, since illegals will use fake identification to get jobs. An employer should be required to do due diligence, and if they don’t or knowingly hire illegals, then they should absolutely be fined. People won’t keep coming if they don’t have jobs to come to.

          1. I suspect that when you hire “Bob Jones”, who looks like a Mexican and hardly speaks any English, but claims to have been born here, you have a pretty good idea that you’re looking at fake ID.

            But what we really need here is for the SS administration to stop deliberately enabling identity theft; They know quite well that when the same SS number is used for two different jobs hundreds of miles apart, it’s not one guy working 16 hours a day and spending the rest of the time on his commute.

            1. I suspect that when you hire “Bob Jones”, who looks like a Mexican and hardly speaks any English, but claims to have been born here, you have a pretty good idea that you’re looking at fake ID.

              IRCA specifically forbids employers from doing that, precisely because Democrats didn’t want “I didn’t hire him because he looks Mexican” to be a thing. (Hint: one can’t “look like a Mexican.” One can look Hispanic, but lots and lots and lots of legal residents of the U.S. look Hispanic.)

              They know quite well that when the same SS number is used for two different jobs hundreds of miles apart

              I don’t know why you think the SSA knows where a job is. They might know the address of the employer’s headquarters, but that’s not the same thing as where the work is being performed.

    2. “Serious question: Who doesn’t believe in the rule of law?”

      1. Spinach,
        TONS of people. A significant minority never believed in prosecuting users of pot, nor small-scale dealers of pot. A significant minority never believed in prosecuting those convicted of gun offenses. About 40% of the entire population apparently thinks it’s fine for the IRS to ignore the clear law that Congress is entitled to see the president’s tax returns.

        It all depends on whose ox is being gored. In fact, based on 3 years of law school and 25+ years of practice; it’s my opinion that the percentage of people who *really* believe that the rule of law should be followed 100% of the time . . . well, it approaches zero.

        1. About 40% of the entire population apparently thinks it’s fine for the IRS to ignore the clear law that Congress is entitled to see the president’s tax returns.

          For the purpose of writing legislation, or oversight of the IRS.
          Congress has not defined the need in reference to writing legislation, nor has congress identified what actions the IRS has taken they are investigating.

          1. Another scofflaw.

            “Shall.”

        2. “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'”

        3. Because the Congress that passes those laws doesn’t really represent us. They are the politicians’ laws, not the people’s laws.

          1. Law enforcement and administration of laws are also alienated from most people.

      2. Almost everyone, in theory, believes in the rule of law. However, we are being conditioned to lose respect for the law everyday, via ignorant, vindictive, and un-enforceable laws. The examples are to numerous to bother listing.

    3. Read the article above. Right where it says “CNN commentator, Jake Tapper”.

    4. Actually, this seems like a remarkably unserious question. I find it very hard to believe that you’re unaware that many Americans do oppose illegal immigration, and thus want the laws against it and against facilitating it enforced. And I find it only a little less surprising that even if you yourself find such a position unthinkable, you can’t wrap your head around how anyone else might feel differently.

      1. It’s fine to have a position against such laws, because you love huddled masses, as most do, or think that, in a free economy, the more, the better, as many libertarians and conservatives normally do. Or even that the US needs to import younger workers hand over fist to forestall voting issues over the struggle with funding the social security retirement of boomers.

        But somewhere along the line the Democrats realized they were rolling over the domestic electorate and shifted position. They don’t really care for any of those reasons. And repubicans don’t admit that’s why they oppose it now.

        So we argue like buffoons about reasons that have nothing to do with anything.

  4. If you own a convenience store, or a lawn care service, or a roofing company, and to quote Bill Clinton “play by the rules” and hire only people with legal right to work in this country, you risk being undercut and run out of business by companies that break the law.

    Guess, the law-abiding business owner should just go out of business, and his employees can collect unemployment.

    Anarcho-Tyranny indeed.

    1. That’s a good point. However, businesses who hire unauthorized aliens have an advantage only if they pay less than fair-market wages. If it can be shown that a business who hires unauthorized aliens and pays them less than fair-market wages because the employees are not authorized to work, I think that justifies punishing the employer while not punishing the employees.

      1. What’s a fair market wage ?

        1. “What’s a fair market wage ?”

          Presumably this refers to the market-clearing wage based on the legal supply of labor.

      2. I think you mean “less than the minimum wage,” not “less than fair-market wages.”

      3. supply and demand curve – nearly impossible to pay less than fair market wages.

          1. “Read Chapter 2.”

            Care to elaborate on chapter 2 of the theory of microeconomics, the laws of supply and demand

            1. If you bothered to read left-wing websites, you’d know that Chapter 1 discusses basic economics, model of supply and demand, etc. Chapter 2 says that Chapter 1 was all bullshit and the laws of economics track exactly the feelings of the SJW left.

      4. In response to the comments about “fair-market wage,” let me rephrase my preferred policy:

        If it can be shown that a business who hires unauthorized aliens and treats them worse because they are not authorized to work, I think that justifies punishing the employer while not punishing the employees.

      5. “market wage”

        Also see pays lower wage in cash to avoid tax reporting/mandatory payments.

    2. That business rightfully belongs to the lawbreakers — in the same way the rest of the country rightfully belongs to the people of Central America.

      Law Professor jobs also rightfully belong to anyone from Central America who wants them. But the rank hypocrisy and greed of the people occupying those academic positions keeps Central American migrants out. They don’t even let Central American migrants camp in their classrooms.

  5. Punishing the workers is punishing the weak and the often desperate.

    Punishing the employers is punishing the root cause, the comfortable and the greedy.

    Ilya lives in an ivory tower of comfort so I don’t expect him to understand this.

    1. Punishing employers may have some instrumental value in getting laws changed.

      And if you really want to discourage undocumented immigrants, making employers reluctant to hire them seems like it would be effective, and quite possibly cheaper than going after the immigrants.

      So I’m not sure Ilya has really thought this through.

      1. I don’t think he’s thought past “Enforcing immigration laws bad. Ugh!”

    2. I agree with bernard actually. It’s a waste of resources to deport a worker who hasn’t committed crimes other than being unlawfully present. Just enforce the law strictly against employers, and a part of the problem is solved as those workers go home on their own tomorrow. Illegal aliens who commit other crimes, though, should be deported immediately and with prejudice (and that’s a huge number). I don’t think it would be unjust to deport someone who recently came here illegally. Just unnecessary.

    3. I’m not sure actually whose comment I flagged above, but my apologies; I just got up, and it was an accident.

    4. He cares about the migrants and wants them taken care of no matter how much it costs everyone but himself.

  6. They both need to be punished, very harshly.

  7. At least you’re honest enough to just say you want open borders. If you oppose “separating” children from parents, but also oppose any sort of family detention while awaiting hearings, then you support de facto open borders. Period, end of story.

    1. Only opposes “brutally” separating children. Apparently in the past it was always done with hugs and kisses. Like with Elian.

      1. Umm. Elian Gonzalez was reunited with his father.

        1. Actually, he was sent into slavery, which is the status of all Cubans.

          1. Hyperbole much? I certainly wouldn’t want to live under Castro’s regime, but their conditions are a far cry from chattel slavery.

  8. This article was friggin terrible. Seriously…woah.

    1. Good argument, dude. Very convincing.

      1. I didn’t construct it as “an argument”. I apologize, I didn’t know commenting required putting forth an argument.

  9. You can protest a policy AND protest that is unfairly applied.

    For instance you can think that drugs should be decriminalized AND think that if drugs are to remain criminalized, then penalties for opiates (more commonly abused by whites) should not be more lenient than those for, say, crack cocaine.

    People who think employers should be punished for hiring undocumented workers might think that is unfair that workers suffer all the penalties of an illegal transaction between employers and employees.

  10. “Only sin”

    Hilarious

  11. I have long advocated a broad conception of rational basis, one whose first rule is not to be so quick to label your political opponent crazy. In my view the judge who is open to the opinions of others, not the one who is blind to them, should be the one that carries the day.

    What will simply point out here is that the court’s current animosity jurisprudence leaves Professor Somin and his ideas vulnerable. If the court conceives freedom to choose as inherent in sovereign dignity, then in order to be a nation that is free and equal to other nations, the United States must have the right and freedom to choose, as it pleases, whom to admit and whom to deport, whose stay to allow to come to term and whose to terminate.

    To oppose this freedom of choice is to deny America and Americans the right to operate autonomously in the world, and hence their right to dignity. In fact Professor Somin doesn’t especially like nation states and doesn’t think concepts of sovereignty should have much say in how countries behave towards others.

    This in turn could be interpreted as animosity. Professor Somin doesn’t want Americans to have sovereign freedom of choice because he doesn’t want them to have dignity, because he hates them.

    I myself don’t think this is a legitimate constitutional argument. But what I’ll point out here is that it’s not much different from the argument that opposition to abortion represents, is inherently in its nature, hatred of women. It’s just the same sort of argument with the ideological shoe on the other foot.

    Personally I think that immigration restrictions may be bad policy but are not inherently unjust, and there’s a big difference between immigration enforcement on the one hand and concentration camps and deliberate cruelty on the other. I also think the is not for the courts – open immigration would be as constitutional as restricted immigration if Congress so chooses.

    1. What will simply point out here is that the court’s current animosity jurisprudence leaves Professor Somin and his ideas vulnerable. If the court conceives freedom to choose as inherent in sovereign dignity, then in order to be a nation that is free and equal to other nations, the United States must have the right and freedom to choose, as it pleases, whom to admit and whom to deport, whose stay to allow to come to term and whose to terminate.

      That assumes that there is such a thing as a collective right.

  12. So much nonsense in this article…
    “individuals should not be barred from starting a new life in the US and seeking opportunity here”.
    The old “magic dirt” theory. Location is irrelevant, if they can’t crate a better life where they come from, they can’t create a better life here. They can only come here be exploited, and end up as a public charge.
    “most notably children (including many who are US citizens)”
    Are they? Probably not, even if born here. This needs to be put to the test soon. No more anchor babies or birth tourism.
    Bob’s law should no longer be imaginary. Mandate E-Verify, sanction employers who hire illegals, so that’s is cheaper to hire legals than illegals. Long term this will be solved, automation makes migration obsolete.

    1. The old “magic dirt” theory. Location is irrelevant, if they can’t crate a better life where they come from, they can’t create a better life here. They can only come here be exploited, and end up as a public charge.

      Really? You believe that? What a remarkably ignorant opinion.

    2. The old “magic dirt” theory. Location is irrelevant, if they can’t crate a better life where they come from, they can’t create a better life here.

      “Institutions don’t matter” isn’t a liberal position. It isn’t a conservative position. But it’s… something.

      1. Institutions are serving everyone (except the wealthy and people in cushy jobs like university professor) very poorly.

        Institutions can’t do their job for the people already here. Burdening those institutions with an additional unlimited number of migrants with almost nothing to offer — not even the willingness to obey laws — is going to make them even worse.

  13. Well, I only read the headline. It should read,

    “If You Oppose Punishing and Deporting Undocumented Workers, You Are A Moron”

    1. ??? I don’t get it.

      A serious comment? Or just an attempt at humor that fell flat?

      1. Serious. Only a moron supports de facto open borders. Opposing deportations is supporting de facto open borders.

  14. One can support some help for people in need without supporting maximal possible help. So one can support relief from deportation without also supporting relief from the difficulty of finding work (the difficulty being caused by employer sanctions).

    1. “They can stay and starve to death if they want.”

      1. You should learn what quotation marks mean. There’s italics if you want to paraphrase.

        They should go to Canada or some other country that might actually welcome them. The US doesn’t need to import more problems. We can get all the productive immigrants we need.

        1. Canada isn’t going to welcome them. Canada relies on having us between them and Mexico as a kind of border wall, and some seriously unfriendly ocean on it’s other three sides.

          Canada has high levels of legal, and selective immigration, and very low levels of illegal immigration, because the only country they share a land border with is the US, so it’s pretty hard to just walk to Canada from Honduras.

          It’s practically impossible to immigrate there without getting a visa first, and the rejection rate for visa applications is in the double digits. Canada has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world. It’s just that they’re very open to people who meet their high standards.

  15. The employees who used false social security numbers or otherwise lied about their status should be deported and the employers should be assessed hefty fines. Those parties rolled the dice and got caught. They should be punished.

    1. 1. If people used a SS Nbr that did not belong to a living person, then I’m not with you…I do not get particularly exercised about crimes that have no direct victim.
      2. Why should the employer be punished if the job applicant *did* supply a “working” SS nbr? What on earth else is an employer supposed to do, other than ask for that number? Blood sample? DNA sample? Ask for the family tree???

      1. Fair enough; The SS administration should be punished for their policy of enabling that sort of ID fraud by not reporting it to the ICE.

  16. I’m disappointed, because I value this site for the conservative thoughts expressed in an intelligent and articulate way. This riposte does not meet muster. It relies on the old worn-out false equivalence arguments that usually are made by Republican politicians and other fake conservatives. One set of Professor Somin’s hypothetical law breakers is motivated by the desire to escape the pathetic and often dangerous circumstances of their birth countries while the other set of law breakers, the hypothetical employers, are solely and exclusively motivated by a desire to exploit vulnerable laborers in order to enrich themselves. I can understand why right wingers cannot discern the difference between the two groups, blinded as they are by self-interest and false senses of superiority. I believe true conservatives have valid points of view about government policy and are capable of articulating them, just as I as a progressive would argue otherwise. Sometimes.

    If I may, I would like to prebut the expected troll responses. Employers do not have to hire illegals in order to compete. They are merely slightly disadvantaged. That is not enough to abandon principle. They are cry-babies and excuse makers.

    It is true that undocumented immigrants also have economic motivation, but it is a morally healthy one, and one of the most important reasons this country was founded. They are not coming as invaders, but rather as reinforcements.

    1. Nope, this is an all or nothing thing. If you don’t want the illegals punished you won’t want the employers punished unless you’re a hypocrite.

      1. Nobody cares if Chest Rockwell thinks they are a hypocrite.

    2. “conservative thoughts expressed in an intelligent and articulate way”

      Somin is a libertarian, nothing conservative about him.

      Open borders is one of his things. His other per things are even less reasoned.

    3. One of my temp jobs was hanging insulation at construction sites.

      Local contractor to hired the insulation firm also used illegal aliens to do wiring and plumbing work.

      My coworkers who put insulation in the walls over the amateur wiring and plumbing decided the contractor used illegals because it was because an American worker state-certified to do electrician or plumbing work would expect to be paid more than $5 an hour. I guess the firm we were working for had a monopoly on the pink insulation.

      The illegals on that site were seriously exploited in my not so humble opinion.

      “If You Oppose Punishing and Deporting Undocumented Workers, You Should Also Oppose Punishing Employers that Hire Them”
      I am tempted to say OK, then, punish the employers who exploit illegal aliens and treat the illegal aliens the way you or I would be treated if we illegally entered Mexico or Canada.

  17. Who wants to bet that those who scream “nobody is above the law!” in regards to Trump also are those screaming that illegals shouldn’t be arrested?

    1. …and the exact opposite, of course. It is hard to turn on Fox News in the evening without hearing its people passionately argue that (1) Trump is indeed above the law in all meaningful ways, and (2) illegal immigrants should all be arrested. (The Fox opinion folks seem split on the utility of also trying to deport 12,000,000 people already here.)

      1. Yep both sides are wrong, which is why the left should stop carrying themselves with this air of superiority they walk around with. It hasn’t been earned.

        But yeah, I just can’t talk folk crying over Trump seriously if they also cry when laws are applied.

        1. There is one distinction though. I strongly believe that all things being equal, rich and powerful people should have a higher burden to obey the law, than poor and uneducated individuals.

          As a result, I am perfectly comfortable with the notion that poor people can be forgiven for non-violent crimes. But the President of the United States needs to be held to the highest standard of all. Every single movement, letter, and action must be scrutinized for the slightest illegality, and strongly punished for any misdeed.

          I believe this is how a society signals its belief in the rule of law. When it forcefully holds powerful people to a higher standard.

          1. To you “Rule of law” means “some people get special treatment before the law that others don’t”?

            That’s… interesting. Totally irrational and wrong, but at least it made me re-read your post.
            To sane people, “equality” means exactly that – equality. Rule of Law means that the LAW rules, not the person being charged/investigated.
            What you actually suggest is no different that what the feudal societies of a thousand years ago had, just with reversed classes.

    2. Are you saying we should hold the President to the same standards we hold some Chiapan shingling roofs with no fall protection in 105 heat?

  18. You know with this story we’ve heard a lot about “the children!”. We’ve all seen the video of the crying 11 yr. old girl that is meant to emotionally manipulate the weak.

    Is the implication that the illegals with families should get a pass? What if you’re just a single dude here illegally…no wife, no kids?

    Speaking of kids, should every single mother in prison be immediately released? Should we even be sending single momma’s to jail? I’m so confused cuz I’m told nobody is above the law by progressives and yet there seems to be a certain class of people they feel should be above the law.

  19. Undocumented workers (illegals) broke US law. If is not punishment it is justice. Yes, I agree those that hire them need to face justice too.

  20. This entire article basically boils down to Jake Tapper is an idiot. My response to which is no shit Somin, you’re just coming to that conclusion now?

  21. My mind is incapable of squaring, all that desire to come to the US to improve their financial position by working the low paying jobs, often working off the books, with minimum wage laws.
    If we truly want the US to take in the poor that have no education, can’t communicate verbally or in the written work, they can’t can’t expect to earn as much as those that do have basic skills. So we are in favor of promoting a financial caste system?

    1. Yes. The financial caste system is working out great for the wealthy. They absolutely want to perpetuate and expand it.

  22. No amount of logic is apt to change Somin’s opinion about “America.” Political opinions in the end (no matter how elaborately intellectually camouflaged) are based on the perceived self-interest of the tribal, ethnic, religious, racial, or national group with which one mostly identifies.

    1. Ilya gets kudos from his wealthy, protected friends who live in gated communities and drive Range Rovers, other people pay the price.

  23. “opponents of deportation rightly point out that the laws in question are so deeply unjust that migrants are justified in violating them. ”

    A few opponents of deportation rightly point that out. But the vast, vast majority of opponents of deportation scream, “Stop saying that we’re in favor of open borders! No one is in favor of open borders! We’re just against these enforcement tactics!”

    The right, at least, has a coherent and reasonable position on immigration, “Enforce our current laws.” Personally I would be in favor of dramatic reduction in immigration restrictions, but the left should get its act together and propose something coherent.

  24. Professor:

    I disagree with your analysis.

    If we want the immigration laws to change, then wealthy business owners must pay a price for violating them. Only then will they place political pressure on republican members of Congress to change the laws.

  25. “If You Oppose Punishing and Deporting Undocumented Workers, You Should also Oppose Punishing Employers that Hire Them”

    Fine with me. It is against current law, I believe.

  26. Sorry, Ilya, I don’t see Tapper’s inconsistency here. The segment is almost entirely him asking Morgan why hardly any employers have been charged, and Morgan not answering.

    Decrying the way the raids were conducted does not imply that Tapper is advocating open borders. He is merely pointing out that enforcement is completely one-sided.

  27. Meh. One can have sympathy for people who flee repressive foreign lands, without having sympathy for people who would oppress them here (hiring them at far less than prevailing wage, and using their illegal status to hold them.)

    1. What if we made decisions using thoughts and analysis instead of emotions?

      1. Political decisions usually involve values, which is why the “epistocracy” business that occasionally comes up here is nonsense.

        I happen to agree with James’ values here.

      2. “What if we made decisions using thoughts and analysis instead of emotions?”

        The churches would empty?

        Clingers would stop clinging?

        Society would stop accrediting schools that teach nonsense?

        The high-end pet food industry would capsize?

        People would flee dying towns and declining industries?

        No more Fast and Furious, amateur hour singing shows, or country music?

        1. Yawn.

          The guy who only posts angry name-calling, day after day, month after month, year after year, with nothing else to offer anyone on any subject, calls other people “bitter”.

          1. There doesn’t seem to be much name-calling, and the word “bitter” doesn’t appear at all.

            1. He left that one out this time? I don’t actually read the stuff he spews. All his posts are the same name-calling nonsense.

              1. If you don’t read it, how do you know what it says?

                1. He has faith. Evangelical faith. That’s what he hates immigrants, brown people, gays, people who earned advanced degrees, and Muslims.

      3. “What if we made decisions using thoughts and analysis instead of emotions?”

        We’d be Vulcans?

        1. What if we used observations of the real world to inform our choices instead of the imagination of mediocre TV writers?

  28. I think people are generally unaware of how the (illegal) worker trade is structured
    1 – A foreigner (legal or illegal) sets up a corporation and gets a 52 -… Tax ID number (possibly done under real name/possibly not – actually do not know the answer to this – my understanding is an ID is required for a bank account but not for this)
    2 – They get insurance (workers comp and liability) claiming to have few employees (2-5) – they pay in full for a year based on this
    3 – The corporation has hundreds of workers all of whom are paid in cash. The corporation cashes checks provided to them (yes there are places that will cash 25k plus corporate checks on a regular basis)
    4- They provide their “employees” to other (legal) businesses at well below what it would cost the business to hire a citizen as an employee (particularly in the construction trades if one does not use them they might as well go out of business) – these businesses are NOT hiring illegals – these businesses contracted with a corporation that has valid paperwork and full insurance to perform a task
    5 – They shut the corporation down in 9 -10 months and start over with a new name (and owner) – there will be no audits, minimal to no taxes paid to state or feds, minimal workers comp, FICA etc ever paid (only had 2-5 employees). This is why “legal” businesses cannot compete/will go out of business if they don’t use these corporations ie these are real costs to most business owners
    Who looks into a corporation that survived less than a year? How would one?
    6 – Restart at #1 under a new name – owned by wife, cousin etc

  29. The only practical way to get unjust laws off the books is to rigorously enforce them. Those against whom the laws are enforced are unfortunate collateral damage and will have karmic rewards in their next life. And those who, with the power to eliminate unjust laws, fail to do so, will have even worse karmic deficits.

  30. If You Oppose Punishing and Deporting Undocumented Workers, You Should Also Oppose Punishing Employers that Hire Them. Punishing employers is unjust for many of the same reasons as punishing the workers. And doing so harms the workers, too.

    I don’t see how that follows.

    I mildly oppose punishing and deporting “undocumented workers” on a large scale for practical reasons.

    I strongly favor severely punishing employers who hire them because the simplest and cheapest way of getting illegals out of the US is to remove the demand for them. In other words, if they can’t work in the US, they have little reason to come or stay.

    I don’t see how denying them an illegal job amounts to “harming” them, at least not any more than American citizens are “harmed” by the thousands of restrictions on what jobs we can and cannot take.

    1. Since you acknowledged that punishing employers will lead to deportations, and you also acknowledged that you oppose directly deporting people only for practical reasons, it appears you support deportations. Thus, Somin’s antecedent doesn’t apply to you, and thus neither does his argument.

    2. This seems to be a philosophical argument against a very specific group, the people complaining that trespassers were arrested, but the business that forged social security numbers for all of them was not.

      This is despite the fact that that’s not how things work. The case against someone illegally present is actually pretty easy. “They are here”. The case can begin immediately. The case against someone who forged social security numbers takes longer to assemble, and you cannot just arrest people before you have enough of a case to indict them.

  31. I’m fine with punsihing employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens with a safe harbor for those who use E-Verify or a comparable vetting system and don’t have actual or constructive knowledge that the employee is using someone else’s identity.

    1. E-verify works well.

      The system in place now and for decades already, involves “don’t have knowledge”. Illegal applies for job, is asked for papers, but explains he has no papers.

      Come back when you have some papers.
      In the afternoon, the applicant comes back with papers, and is hired. No one looks too hard.

    2. I was with you up to “constructive knowledge”. Punish the heck out of the ones who hire illegals on purpose. The ones who do so because the illegals have good fake papers… not so much. And leave room for error. If the employee and the employer both thought the employee’s visa allowed working when it does not, but the employee provided the accurate information, say. Making a hire shouldn’t involve hiring a lawyer to vet the process.

  32. A six-year-old, could do this, but….

    Punish them all. There, fixed.

    1. You are advocating that the Trump properties found to have hired many undocumented workers should be prosecuted — and, perhaps, the owners and managers?

      1. Yep, for sure “prosecuted.”

  33. Severe punishment for hiring illegals is a perfectly humane solution to the entire problem. Ten years in prison seems about right, with the goal to convince would be migrants to cease illegal border crossing.

  34. Nah.

    I support draconian measures against employers because (A) it would actually reduce illegal immigration by cutting off one of the reasons folks come here, and (B) it would force congress to finally address immigration reform as businesses would need it.

    As-is, the status quo works for buisnesses. They get their cheap immigrant labor, they have leverage over them if they get too uppity, and they never get punished for it. All reward, no risk. You want that status quo to change? Then you need to make it undesirable.

    So yes. Going after the employers would have short-term negative effects on immigrants. But it’s the only long-term strategy that leads to reform.

  35. Moreover, Congress earmarks funds for a special Bob’s Law Enforcement Budget (BLOB), which can only be spent on prosecuting Bob’s Law violators, so that officials will have a strong incentive to actually go after employers who dare hire Bob, as opposed to letting them off the hook.

    How is it we’re 120 comments in, and nobody’s mentioned this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOtDNXfMyD0

  36. Punish–heavily–all law breakers.
    Deport non-citizens.
    Death penalty for coyotes and all other traffickers.
    The system will very quickly get the message.

  37. I note this line:

    “Those who oppose deportation do so, at least in large part, because they believe (correctly, in my view) that these individuals should not be barred from starting a new life in the US and seeking opportunity here. ”

    I suspect that the response would be different if there were millions of lawyers crossing the border and the cartel known as the ABA and the various state-wide bar associations could not use the bar exams to prevent the “immigrants” from suppressing lawyer’s pay by sheer dint of their numbers.

    Imagine how the pay of the American working class (and tech class) would boom if orderly immigration of only those we need or who truly need political asylum were allowed in. Thankfully we will finally enforce again the restriction against immigrants coming for welfare. I still remember when immigrants needed sponsors who would take full financial responsibility for them.

    1. For sure, but way too much common sense for progressive globalists to comprehend.

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