Immigration Reform the Wrong Wary

IMMIGRATION REFORM THE WRONG WAY….Jim Gilchrist, the rabidly anti-immigrant Minuteman Project founder who lives a few miles down the freeway from me, polled 25% of the vote in our recent congressional election, nearly as much as the Democratic candidate. That’s no surprise. Here in Southern California, illegal immigration has always been a big deal.

However, as Douglas McGray writes in “Shift Work,” it’s not just border states where illegal immigration is a big deal anymore:

Until recently, most Americans lived in communities where few (if any) illegal immigrants settled. Conditions were ideal for a policy of willful inattention. But that’s changing, as immigrants?legal and illegal?increasingly settle throughout the country. California’s share of the country’s estimated 10 million illegal residents is shrinking, as dozens of states from Virginia to Idaho see their undocumented populations explode. In a handful of these new immigration hubs, more than half of the foreign-born population is now undocumented.

As part of the populist backlash this has caused, immigration foes are increasingly trying to deputize local officials such as cops, doctors, and teachers in their fight to deport illegals. But a funny thing has happened along the way: it turns out that even conservative local officials think this is a bad idea:

Fresno’s Republican mayor, Alan Autry….looks fit for the role of an immigration hardliner (?big, ugly, white, and from the South,? he deadpans.) But his motives for getting involved in the issue are more complicated than his lefty critics or his Minuteman fans assume. Local employers and middlemen prey on a workforce the region depends on, Autry told me. ?We’re having more and more instances of businesses working people for four weeks, not paying them, and then calling immigration,? he said. Some employers literally work men to death: Just a few days earlier, a local laborer had died in the 108-degree heat, and farm workers gossiped about two other alleged deaths that failed to make the news.

….Yet despite the visibility of illegal immigration in Fresno, Autry backs the local statute that prohibits cops like [Pat] Farmer from reporting undocumented workers to the feds. ?I don’t believe we’ll ever make a dent in the problem by approaching the symptoms,? he said. Instead, he has tried to organize fellow mayors to lobby Congress for comprehensive immigration reform, including a guest-worker program.

Laws that require local officials to report illegal immigrants may be increasingly popular, but it turns out that no one ? neither local officials nor federal immigration officials ? thinks these laws will work. In fact, they’re likely to make things worse. Click the link to get the whole story.