Generally laws are enacted to deter undesirable activities or actions. The enforcement of such laws is primarily done for two reasons: to punish those who commit the violations of laws and to deter others who would contemplate violating those same laws.
Our immigration laws exist for two primary purposes: to protect innocent lives and the jobs of American workers. It is generally agreed that the great majority of illegal aliens who violate our immigration laws do so in order to work in the United States.
One of the key provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 was the creation of employer sanctions to punish employers who intentionally hired illegal aliens. Prior to the enactment of this law, employers who hired illegal aliens faced no consequences for such hiring practices. These measures were implemented to “turn off the powerful magnet” of jobs that draws so many illegal aliens each year. These provisions for employer sanctions were also included to counterbalance the amnesty provisions of this major change to the immigration laws.
The Reagan administration, however, failed to provide for an increase in the numbers of special agents for the INS (the agency responsible at the time) to enforce these new laws. Hence, the power to the employment magnet was never really turned off.
Succeeding administrations refused to truly enforce the immigration laws and thus deter illegal immigration. As a consequence, in the nearly three decades since the IRCA legislation, the U.S. experienced the greatest influx of illegal aliens in the history of the country.
The Obama administration has distinguished itself by not only failing to enforce immigration laws, but by claiming “prosecutorial discretion” to provide illegal aliens such as the “DREAMERS” with employment authorization and temporary legal status.
In my June 17, 2012 Op-Ed for Fox News Latino, I noted that what Mr. Obama referred to as “prosecutorial discretion” should more properly be referred to as “prosecutorial deception.”
On February 25, 2014, The Washington Times reported that employers who are fined for violating immigration laws by hiring illegal aliens are getting a 40% discount on the fines that were initially levied against them for their illegal hiring practices. This fine reduction mitigates the deterrence effect that these fines should have.
The article noted that the Bush administration did not impose nearly as many fines as the current administration, while Speaker of the House John Boehner was quoted as saying that employers need immigration reform to be able to hire workers. Perhaps Mr. Boehner did not get the memo about the record levels of unemployment and underemployment of American workers. Perhaps he did not get the memo about the record number of Americans living below the poverty line.
While the article made the assertion that businesses have been an afterthought in the immigration debate, I would strongly suggest that those who are truly the “afterthought” in the immigration debate are millions of desperate American workers and their families.