After its relentless six-year campaign for amnesty crashed and burned in June at the hands of the common people, the White House has come up with a new plan: to start enforcing some of the laws they should have been enforcing all along, and so thoroughly scare the public with the consequences that there will be a popular groundswell for amnesty that will finally vindicate the administration position. You can almost hear the president thinking, â€?be careful what you wish for.â€?
Or as DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff put it, â€?There will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this.â€?
I tend to think these folks are deliberately implementing this strategy for political reasons. First off, with the 2008 election coming up, they are playing to an element of the GOP base that isn't real happy with them. Secondly, they are pursuing these policies in ways such that they won't be able to keep them up.
I used to do "one of those jobs American's won't do"—raising livestock. Part of the lectures we got from our veterinarian: you never use antibiotics unless you are going to follow through and eradicate the problem-otherwise you'll just make it worse. I think the same logic applies with illegal immigration-and every enforcement policy we've seen to date.
I also have real concerns about having someone like Chertoff doing a job this important. His performance during Katrina wasn't exactly inspiring. If he doesn't think he can do the job, he should resign and let someone that really wants to make this process work do it.
Sure, there are all kinds of ways that a big change in law enforcement or migration can be accompanied by economic dislocation. What I want to see is some serious consideration given to how to do it differently.
Now, one interesting side effect here: one important constituency that will have immediate benefits from enforcement of immigration laws are unskilled blacks. Those folks have been hammered the last 40+ years by US immigration policy. I suspect a little relief will mean they'll get a bit more militant-and active politically.