Sunday, April 17, 2011

I agree with Rep. Carr and the Tea Party: make the immigration status quo more painful for Americans

Photo by m4rpk. Licensed via Creative Commons.

The Tennessean reported today on the continuing friction between business and the GOP about this year's slate of immigration bills. GOP Rep. Joe Carr was quoted earlier, by another source, as saying that he hopes that Tennessee businesses feel some pain as a result of his immigration legislation, so that they pressure their representatives in Washington to make the necessary fixes at the federal level. The Tennessee Tea Party is also in favor of amping up the pressure on businesses in the state.

I agree with Rep. Carr and the Tennessee Tea Party on this point: Tennessee businesses should feel more pain when it comes to immigration enforcement. In fact, a couple of years ago, I said it almost the exact same way that Carr did, after the business lobby neutered Tennessee immigration enforcement bills in 2008:
One would hope that American businesses feeling the sting of immigration enforcement for the first time will lobby the U.S. Congress for an overhaul of the federal immigration bureaucracy and unhinge the bear trap not just from the legs of employers, but from the legs of their employees who have been in that painful position for a much longer time.
Currently, the immigration bear trap is set to kill only the employee, not the American employer, who violates the law. If the Tennessee legislature wants to set real and consequential bear traps for Tennessee businesses, that is the only way the pain will be more fairly distributed between immigrant and American, between families and businesses, between employees and employers.

I've been saying this for more than just a couple of years. In 2006, I had similar words for the executive branches in Nashville and Washington:
Enforce the laws to the letter until we Americans feel how harsh our immigration system is. As commentator Sean Brainsted said in a different context here, "The more that rich and powerful people are held accountable to the same laws that poorer people are, the more likely we are to get rid of ridiculous laws."
But don't hold your breath. Whatever the Tennessee legislature passes, whatever pain is imposed on Tennessee businesses, it won't hold a candle to the pain felt by ordinary, working Tennessee families who are told they can't immigrate or integrate, who could be turned into a "disappeared person" at the knock of a door.

Since the balance of immigration enforcement pain is never going to be felt equally between American and immigrant, Americans who feel no relative pain from the current system are still going to have to speak up on behalf of their immigrant neighbors. Rep. Joe Carr has given us plenty of opportunities to speak up (given the annual parade of state-level YADAs*), but he not proven himself to be a role model in speaking up for everyone. For that, we'll have to aspire to the principled courage of another GOP politician named Carr - Governor Ralph Carr of Colorado, who pushed back against the federal government's treatment of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

*YADA: yet another deportation approach

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