Half-Measures Don't Work

By Mark Krikorian on August 16, 2011

The Wall Street Journal bemoans the administration's campaign of immigration audits of companies' personnel records as bad for illegal aliens:

The journey from prosperity to the economic margins followed by Alba and Eugenio is an increasingly common path for thousands of undocumented workers pushed out of their jobs by the federal government’s audits of U.S. businesses, according to immigration experts, business owners and unions.

Of course, enforcement of the law is supposed to be bad for law-breakers. But the article does get at an important shortcoming of the Obama strategy of using audits in lieu of raids and arrests of illegal immigrants; as Rep. Lamar Smith tells the reporter, "This means the illegal immigrant can walk down the street to the next employer and take a job that could go to an unemployed, legal worker."

I'm sure it's true that "the policy is pushing undocumented workers deeper underground, delivering them to the hands of unscrupulous employers, depressing wages and depriving federal, state and local coffers of taxes," as the story notes. But that's only because such a policy (part of a larger message that all illegal aliens who aren't also rapists or murderers are exempt from deportation) gives illegal aliens false hope and encourages them to stick around and try to find another, albeit less desirable, job, and if that fails, to live off handouts.

In other words, we're puling our punch with these audits. They're not at all a bad idea in themselves, but they need to be part of a broader strategy that also includes arresting illegal workers and prosecuting them for their many felonies related to identity fraud and perjury, and then deporting them. (This also makes it more likely they'll testify as part of a plea deal, making convictions of crooked employers more likely in these notoriously difficult cases.) As I pointed out in my recent piece in National Review, doubling deportations, not just of criminals but also of regular illegal aliens, is an achievable goal. What's more, in the long run it would be more humane, forcing illegal aliens to get on with their lives in their own countries instead of stringing them along and encouraging them to stay, as the White House would prefer.