Amnesty for illegal immigrants or employers who hired them?

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 26, 2006

So, you oppose any immigration reform that includes “amnesty”?Could you be more specific? If we define amnesty as forgiveness,are you opposed to forgiving 12 million illegal immigrants or theemployers who hired them?

We ask because things are so nutty in Washington these days thatit’s possible to be against one but not the other.

That’s right. Some of the same lawmakers who take a hard lineagainst what they see as amnesty for illegal immigrants tend to gosoft on employers who hire them. This isn’t new. Yet the practiceof turning a blind eye to employers is, as of late, taking someinteresting new twists.

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Up to now, this bizarre double standard – hard on workers, softon employers – has shown up only in terms of punishment; unlikebuilding walls or deploying armies, penalizing employers isn’t anidea that has caught fire in Congress or at the White House.

There was some encouraging movement on that front this week whenthe Senate voted to require employers to check the Social Securitynumbers of new hires against a computerized verification system andfine employers who hire illegal immigrants up to $20,000 for eachworker.

But that’s about getting tough on future employers, not currentones. The legislation being debated in the Senate assures us thatemployers “of aliens applying for adjustment of status … shallnot be subject to civil and criminal tax liability relatingdirectly to the employment of such alien.”

That’s what we call amnesty. Unlike the hoops that undocumentedimmigrants have to jump through to legalize their status – payingfines and back taxes, learning English, registering with thegovernment – employers get a pass. Maybe senators think currentemployers haven’t really committed a crime, or maybe they believemany employers don’t know whom they’re hiring, because of theprevalence of fake documents. For whatever reason, even the hardestof hard-liners seem eager to let current employers off the hookeven as they’re forcing their workers to make restitution. Underthe Senate plan, current employers don’t have to do much ofanything.

Their absolution comes en masse. They aren’t held responsible,and they pay no penalty. They admit no wrongdoing. This exerciseproves what we have often said about how the phenomenon of illegalimmigration starts on this side of the border with employerslooking to cut costs and increase profits. It also makes clear thatAmericans and their representatives in Washington share the blamefor not holding employers accountable – and for excusingmisbehavior.

You would think this form of amnesty would have the citizenry upin arms, but what is of greater concern to many Americans is thepossibility that illegal immigrants will be dealt with lenientlydespite the fact that they committed a crime by entering thecountry without the proper documents.

Rest assured. That won’t happen. Under the Senate legislation,there won’t be any leniency for those illegal immigrants who arealready here. There is none left. It all went to the people whoemploy them.

Paper Name:The San Diego Union-Tribune.