Workplace Raids, Pelosi, and Me
When they're in the throes of an immigration debate, liberals claim they accept the premise that ours is a country of laws and that it's reasonable to enforce those laws, but they don't really mean it. Case in point: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is not keen on workplace raids as a means of enforcing federal immigration law. Pelosi recently drove home that point in a couple of speeches that have immigration restrictionists buzzing.
Ironically, I'm probably more in line with Pelosi on the larger issue of immigration reform than I am with the restrictionists who blast her. She and I agree on a lot. Like the fact that nativism and racism are fueling the anxieties of many Americans; they did 100 years ago when people like Pelosi's Italian immigrant grandparents were derided, and they do today with immigrants from Mexico being the cultural interlopers. We also both agree that comprehensive immigration reform -- a combination of enforcement and earned legalization for the undocumented -- is the way to proceed, as opposed to the lazy and discredited enforcement-only approach.
But Pelosi and I part company when it comes to immigration raids. Maybe that's because while her father was a congressman, mine is a retired cop. Pelosi started bashing raids at a mostly Hispanic gathering at St. Anthony's Church in San Francisco on March 7. The event was organized by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who is conducting a 17-city, cross-country tour called "United Families." The endeavor is intended to put a human face on the immigration debate. Pelosi told the crowd: "Who in this country would not want to change a policy of kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families? ... It must be stopped. ... What value system is that? I think it's un-American. I think it's un-American."
Then on March 23 before the U.S.-Mexico Congressional Border Issues Conference in Washington, Pelosi recalled her earlier comments and added: "Raids that break up families in that way, just kick in the door in the middle of the night, taking father, a parent away, that's just not the American way. It must stop. It's just not the American way."
Pelosi is wrong. Enforcing the law and holding people accountable for their actions is the American way. Or at least it should be. In fact, there's no good argument for not carrying out workplace raids. If we're going to have immigration laws, they have to be enforced or else why have them on the books? And enforcing the law doesn't just mean putting guards and cameras on the border. It means following illegal immigrants into the interior of the United States and, if necessary, to their workplace.
The tragedy of the raids isn't that families are separated. That's the fault of parents who put children in a precarious position. Separation happens when mommy shoplifts or daddy robs banks. The real tragedy is that often in these raids, the employers get off scot-free. In the few cases where employers were punished following a raid, the agency doling out the penalty wasn't U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but the U.S. Labor Department or the Internal Revenue Service. That's fine. If labor laws or tax laws were also violated in these cases, the guilty should be brought to justice. But it's no substitute for holding employers accountable, under the law, when they knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
While Gutierrez and Pelosi rail against immigration raids, they have to swallow the fact that the man they helped put in the White House may no longer be on board with their view. Barack Obama criticized immigration raids when pandering to Hispanic groups during the campaign. But since he became president, his administration has already carried out a raid. It happened a few weeks ago, in Bellingham, WA, where ICE agents swarmed Yamato Engine Specialists, a machinery plant, and arrested 28 illegal immigrants.
So, Nancy Pelosi, doesn't that make the Obama administration "un-American?"
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