Friday, December 07, 2007

Help the Governor with Law Enforcement

I had an op ed in today's Durham Herald. Not finding it on line there (I'll get the link, tho!)

Anyway, here is the article.

Help the Governor with Law Enforcement
Michael Munger
Duke University

There is an old metal sign on my office wall. It's dated 1928, and says, "Help the President with Law Enforcement. Repeal the 18th Amendment. For Prosperity." The sign had hung on a barn wall in eastern NC for more than 75 years. I bought it at an auction, and had it framed.
The sign is old, but the message is timeless. The only reason that lots of things are illegal is that they happen to be against the law. We can spend more, and give up more freedoms, for enforcement. Or we can get rid of the law. The 18th Amendment of 1919 prohibited the sale of alcohol. But Prohibition proved too expensive, too intrusive, and too difficult to enforce. So we helped the President with law enforcement: Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
"Law enforcement" has been the key issue in the last few weeks for North Carolina's community colleges. On November 7, the NC Community College System issued a mandate that read, in part: "To comply with the State Board's regulation requiring an open-door admission policy to 'all applicants'...colleges should immediately begin admitting undocumented individuals." What? Why should illegal aliens be able to attend community college?
Because that's our policy, and Governor Easley has rightly stood by that policy. But we could "help the Governor," just like my old sign says. The problem is not with community college admissions. The problem is the law that makes folks "illegal" in the first place.
Political scientists refer to the coalition that kept Prohibition in place as the "the Baptists and the Bootleggers." The Baptists for moral reasons, and Bootleggers for economic reasons, wanted states to crack down on "illegal" liquor sales. Strange bedfellows, I suppose, but Baptists got their morality, and the bootleggers got a protected monopoly.
Well, the Baptist and Bootlegger coalition has come back. Demagogues like Lou Dobbs are playing to a resurgent nativist sentiment widespread in our population. We are all immigrants, but the ones who got here first want to pull the ladder up. "I've got mine! You have to stay out!" So they play the moralistic loudmouth role.
And the Bootleggers? Well, that role has been taken on by the giant agriculture corporations, and the meatpackers, and other companies that depend on keeping immigration illegal. We don't block immigration; we block legal immigration. That's the way we keep labor costs low to unscrupulous employers. That's the economic part.
Employment, welfare, insurance, education, crime....all these issues are dumped on the Governor, as law enforcement problems. One way to address the problem is to spend more money, and divert more resources, to a hopeless attempt to enforce a useless law. But the other way, the sensible way, to solve the problem is to change the law itself.
Allowing illegal aliens access to community colleges, at out-of-state tuition rates, is the right policy, but it's a baby step. The real way to help the President, and the Governor, with law enforcement is to change the law. The solution is complicated, but I think it has three parts. Remember, as it stands, we don't block immigration. Millions of people have crossed our border in the last decade. No, we just use paper barriers to prevent people from coming here legally.
The first step, then, would be to gain control of borders, giving us confidence that we can keep criminals, repeat offenders, and terrorists out. Second, start a guest worker program. Make it possible for people to be legal, and go through a probation period. Law-abiding, hard-working immigrants shouldn't be deported. And, if we have control of the border, deportations of the law-breakers and the chiselers would stick, because we can use fingerprints and retinal scans for positive IDs.
Finally, full citizenship for guest workers who qualify, after five years. In America, if you want to be an American, you should get a chance to be here legally. Help the President with law enforcement. Change the law, to achieve a comprehensive solution to the immigration problem.

9 comments:

DG said...

Congrats on a well-reasoned, entirely correct piece of work. You should get this in more newspapers.

Shawn said...

we block legal immigration. That's the way we keep labor costs low to unscrupulous employers. That's the economic part.

...had to read that a few times, and I'm still not quite sure I understand. Is it because there are enough illegal immigrants coming and willing to work, that employers can hire them for low wages, because they have no recourse? If they were legal workers, on work visas, they'd have rights, and wouldn't get paid as low as they do now?

Robert S. Porter said...

It is online but only for registered readers.

Apprently the The Herald-Sun needs to get like Gorby tear down this wall.

Dirty Davey said...

I've thought of one simple reform: if you are not a legal permanent resident, and you blow the whistle on your employer's violation of labor, wage and hour, or worker safety laws, you get a green card.

Just a Thought said...

"Finally, full citizenship for guest workers who qualify, after five years."


This is an important part, and the one part that has been missing from the President's current plan.


if you are not a legal permanent resident, and you blow the whistle on your employer's violation of labor, wage and hour, or worker safety laws, you get a green card.


Interesting amendment. This would be controversial because you could just seek out the worst employer and get instant documents, but it would sure clean employers up. If there were too many violations, before they knew it all of their employees would be legal and demanding higher wages.

Angus said...

I don't think its always true that being illegal lowers your wages. Employers of illegals are not monopsonists. I disagree a bit with Mungowitz here in that I think "business" as a class would be much happier with a large amount of easy, flexible, legal immigration.

The problem with guest worker programs from the point of view of business is that they would be run by a bureaucracy and probably slow to react to changes in supply and demand. That I think is the allure of illegal immigration over a government guest worker program for business; fast reacting flows of workers.

Norman said...

I this is is a very reasonable proposal. It sounds remarkably like many arguments I have heard regarding the ineffectiveness of gun control legislation. I wonder what the readers (and authors) of this blog think of applying this "law enforcement by law repeal" argument to other areas like guns, drugs, or health codes (just as examples).

Just a Thought said...

I don't think its always true that being illegal lowers your wages. Employers of illegals are not monopsonists.

They don't need to be momopolists though, because they are not in a free labor market. They do not have the same ability to bargain and seek other employment because they will need to find another employer willing to overlook their status (and if they try to bargain they may be deported, so most will be too afraid to take this route.)

The "free labor market" theory is flawed though, because potential employees do not have the ability to walk away from jobs and negotiate as freely as the theory contends. Eventually workers must resort to unfavorable employment to keep food on their table. I know a Psych prof at a good university who worked as a McDonald's fryguy before finding his first job (in Africa!) He has since moved back and into his current position, but he did not have enough employment options (read zero) to bargain, he just had to take a less skilled, lower pay job to keep his children fed.

Melynn G said...

Damn, damn, damn.

In that case, you are the only gubenatorial candidate who supports the new policy. I might have to vote for you, after all. Did you get on the ballot yet?

And after plagarizing Dr. Seuss and everything!!!

-mg