The Road to Dystopia
The search for a silver bullet to slay illegal immigration continues. Hard-liners are turning the country upside down looking for it.
They are looking in Washington, where Senate Republicans last week offered more than a dozen bills to further enshrine mass deportation as the national immigration strategy. It is a grab bag of enforcement measures that will be useful for tough-talking campaign commercials, but will not actually solve anything.
Republicans and some Democrats in the House are trying to force a vote on a bad bill called the SAVE Act, which among other things would force all workers, including citizens, to prove they have a right to earn a living — a bad idea compounded by the notoriously bad state of federal government records.
The error rate in just one database, the Social Security Administration’s, is believed to be more than 4 percent, making it likely that many thousands of Americans would face unjust firings and discrimination, and waste a lot of time and effort trying to clear their names.
The harsh-enforcement virus has spread far beyond the Capitol. In states like Oklahoma, laws have been enacted to force illegal immigrants further underground, off official registries and into anonymity, by denying them identification like driver’s licenses. In a growing number of states and counties, politicians are offering up police officers to the federal government for immigration posses. From Prince William County, Va., to Maricopa County, Ariz., officers who pull people over for minor traffic infractions are checking immigration papers, too.
Many law-enforcement professionals say this is reckless and self-defeating, because it sends a deep, silencing chill into immigrant communities. Citizens and legal residents will inevitably be hassled for looking Latino. And it is expensive; Prince William’s new law is expected to cost $26 million over five years, plus a few million more to outfit police cars with cameras, as a hedge against lawsuits.
Maybe some people do not mind that immigration zealotry is sending the country down a path of far greater intrusion into citizens’ lives, into a world of ingrained suspicion, routine discrimination and economic disruption. Is that what we want — to make the immigration system tougher without fixing it? To make illegal immigrants suffer without any hope of ever becoming legal, because that is amnesty?
Could it be that tightening the screws relentlessly on illegal immigrants, even if some citizens suffer in the process, is all for the greater good?
Which is — what exactly? To drive a large cohort of workers out of a sputtering economy? To take more people off the books? To prop up the under-the-table businesses that inevitably evade such crackdowns? To worsen wages and working conditions for all Americans, since nobody works more cheaply and takes more abuse than a terrified, desperate immigrant?
This is a country that runs on routine amnesties. Where would the courts be without plea bargains, or state budgets without periodic tax forgiveness? Are illegal immigrants the one class of undesirables for whom common sense, proportionality, discernment, good judgment and compassion are unthinkable?
It is frightening to think that this country’s answer could be an emphatic yes.