James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, June 08, 2007

Punishing Employers?

The two strongest arguments for stronger immigration enforcement have been
a) the depression of wages that increases in the labor force brings (particularly in an already over-taxed, over-regulated economy);
b) the drain on government education and social welfare.

It could be argued, then, that the main problem with immigration is the socialist apparatus we already have, and dismantling socialism in America would make immigration less of a problem. I fully agree. But I'm skeptical of claims that foreign individuals have a natural right to travel across our borders unrestricted; American territory is essentially the property of Americans, and Americans should have the final say of who's in and who's out. Moreover, in the process of repealing laws and increasing liberty, the order in which liberalization takes place is important. It is more urgent to dismantle the Welfare State first before repealing all immigration laws and opening the border. Otherwise, we risk greater impoverishment and bankruptcy.

So it seems to me that best approaches to controlling illegal immigration would be to guard the borders and track immigrant visas more effectively, and cut off access to public education and social services to illegal immigrants. Proving one's citizenship or legal status to receive government benefits is a far cry from what was proposed in the recent and fortunately-abandoned immigration bill, would have forced all Americans to prove their legal status just to earn a living.

Proof of citizenship should not be required to find or keep a job. A relationship in which one person pays another for work completed is a classic case of a victimless crime. Employers seeking to earn a living shouldn't be forced into the role of government enforcement agents or be compelled to rat out a suspected illegal immigrant. It was the government's job to stop the illegal immigrant from coming in at the border. Sure, the government can still try to catch and deport the person if it so choses, but why should his employer be penalized? What did he do?

If businesses are exploiting workers in violation of labor laws, I could understand prosecuting them for violating those laws (leaving aside the wisdom of such laws). But we must understand the nature of the "crime" of illegal immigration. It amounts to trespassing, and an employer has the right to assume that it's the government's responsibility to catch the trespassers and to presume that prospective employees are here legally. Hiring someone to work is a victimless activity, and hence shouldn't be a crime.

Forcing employers to comply with yet more laws, and forcing ordinary Americans to get the "correct" documents just to earn money to eat, violates our basic rights and harms the economy. Ordinary citizens shouldn't be made criminals to cover up the incompetence of their government.

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