Geraldo Rivera, he of the Al Capone vault television mega-flop, has an over-the-top article up at the Huffington Post in which he condemns the recent raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that resulted in the arrests of hundreds of illegal immigrants. The Wall Street Journal called the raids "immigration theater" and I’m inclined to agree with Rivera to an extent.
And why the heavy hand? These are non-violent people. Their crime is almost invariably that they are here, their presence, not that they did anything wrong while they were here. Even minimal physical resistance to authority is rare. The federal government could have as easily sent in a couple of civilian garbed immigration officials and handed out summonses to report to a certain gathering spot to await detention and deportation following a hearing. The vast majority of those honest workers would have shown up without the pathetic show and without the terror gratuitously inflicted on these poor working families.
I’m sure this is mostly true. However, it’s incumbent on me to point out that Houston Police Officer Rodney Johnson was murdered by an illegal alien he’d arrested last year. This is just one of many crimes committed by illegal aliens in the U.S. Characterizing all illegals as peaceful is wrong, just as demonizing them because of the actions of a few is inaccurate.
It’s great that ICE is finally rousing itself from its gentle slumber and taking an interest in its responsibilities – don’t get me wrong on that point. To the extent that such raids discourage illegal immigrants from crossing the border they are a good thing. But it’s a long way from comprehensive immigration reform.
Rivera says that without illegal workers our farming industries will suffer and the food supply might fail. But will that really happen? Doubtful. As the NY Times reported, illegal workers often work well excess of a regular work day at low rates of pay. No surprise there. Replacing workers who are willing to work for sub-market rates will cause the prices of the product they produce to rise accordingly. But it can be done and will be done if the pool of illegal labor dries up. There’s no such thing as a job an American won’t do; it’s simply question of the price point.
Still, Rivera is correct in saying there would be economic consequences if too many illegal workers are sent home. How much and for how long is a big unknown. To me that’s not an issue because it’s not going to happen. ICE’s daring raid aside, there are too many illegals with too big of a stake in this country to think that they’re going to leave it empty-handed. We can’t make them, so why pretend?
That’s why it’s so important to implement real, enforceable immigration reform that secures our borders, provides a quantifiable, verifiable path to citizenship for those illegals already here, and creates a flexible system to support the management of a legal immigrant labor pool.
John Hawkins says that he won’t support John McCain because the latter favors just such a plan for dealing with the illegal immigration mess. That’s an admirable bit of ideological consistency from a good conservative writer but it’s also rather silly and short-sighted.
News flash: The immigration hard-liners all lost in the Republican primaries and the fantasy of forcing 10-15 million immigrants to leave the U.S. and re-apply for admission died with their defeat. Fact is, decades of governmental incompetence created the current situation and there’s no easy fix for it. Conservatives who hold out for unrealistic and draconian measures simply make the problem worse by prolonging the status quo.