Illegal immigration from the demand side (aka Zero Tolerance for Employers)

Out of the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the US, about 8 million of them work. The overwhelming majority of those who cross the border illegally are not here fleeing violence and oppression, or to plant anchor welfare babies and rape our women, but to do shitty jobs and make money. More to the point, they’re here because a whole lot of people are willing to employ them.

I could be wrong (and it’s one of the reasons I’m starting this discussion), but I don’t feel like I read much about employers of undocumented immigrants getting in trouble. And it seems like it couldn’t possibly be that hard to find them if we really wanted to.

So it seems to me that we’re aiming the zero tolerance policy at the wrong people, and we could slow illegal border crossings to a trickle in six months if we really wanted to. Just allow a 60-day grace period and then declare that anyone caught employing someone in the country illegally pays hefty fines AND does federal time. Pay an undocumented worker to mow your grass or watch your kids? Three months and $10K. Restaurant employs undocumented dishwashers? Owner does a year and pays $100K. Giant grove full of undocumented workers picking avocados? Owner does five years and pays millions. Ignorance is no excuse. Being fooled by good forgeries is no excuse. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Crack down early and make some examples all along the spectrum.

OK, so I know why we don’t do this. Whole sectors of our economy would probably collapse. The Republican leaders who want us to believe that illegal Latinx immigration is a serious and imminent threat to our nation are full of shit–they just want to create an “other” that they can promise to protect us from, and they SURE as hell don’t want to put a bunch of white tobacco farm owners and contractors in prison.

Could Democrats make an issue of the fact that Republicans won’t pursue this fairly obvious solution to their problem? Or would the Republicans call their bluff?

Don’t rural areas where the farm workers work tend to trend Republican? Any idea what percentage of these illegals are employed by Republicans?

Going to jail for not using E-Verify before getting my grass cut by some random guy, who the hell would support that? For the record I’ve always enjoyed cutting my own grass*

Well, it’s also a terrible idea that would punish a lot of innocent people. I think most illegal workers are working with fraudulent documents that show them to be eligible for employment (and it’s illegal to scrutinize documents all that much). Even e-Verify lets a significant number through.

I think we need to issue National ID cards to every citizen and legal resident that uses biometric data to create a tamper proof way of establishing everyone’s identity. In order to obtain employment in the US, you must have a national ID card.

Punishing people who make a good faith effort to comply with the law? No thanks.

We could required expended use of e-verify. I don’t know if that would have to be state by state or if congress could mandate it.

The ripple effect on the economy would be horrendous. It would start with agriculture and radiate out from there. Crops would root in fields, food prices would rise as farmers adjust wages to try to get anybody to do the work (and if I weren’t posting from my phone, I’d bring cites of the difficulties of finding workers even when increasing wages), and soon these inflationary pressures are affecting the economy as a whole. The rhetoric on the “dangers” of undocumented workers is so wrong, and many congresspeople know it. But it gets votes and motivates people, as long as they promise to do something but never really do. Someone is messing with that formula.

It would be messy either way. California bans municipalities from using E-Verify, and Illinois used to ban it but now forbids employers from using it before hiring an employee (cite). An employer can also be sued for discrimination for being too aggressive in requiring documentation before hiring, like insisting on a green card.

Considering the hollering over voter ID, I suspect this one is going to be even less popular, at least with Democrats.


Democrats don’t like requiring ID for voting. Republicans like requiring IDs, but are opposed to people actually having them.

I disagree. What we need to do is get over our shit, accept that non-citizens who may or may not be undocumented are gonna be doing the shitty jobs that none of us want to do, and move on with our lives.

You think only Democrats would have a problem with a national ID card? You don’t think that evangelical Republicans (often also the ones yelling loudest about building the wall) will be quoting Revelation when they hear about this idea?

My experience in this regard, with my apologies to those who are sick of hearing it, was:

  1. get a graduate degree in the US,
  2. get a job as a research lab tech/lab manager for a Pharma company, under the automatic work permit which came with the degree,
  3. need to renew work permit,
  4. be told that my lawyer and the company have decided it’s “best for all parties concerned” if I do not renew the permit and simply overstay my permit and visa, therefore the company will not provide a letter I need as proof of employment,
  5. call la migra asking what can I do, will a letter from my direct manager be ok?
  6. be called a “stupid fucking Hispanic whore”,
  7. say “gee whiz, am I glad to be from a developed country whose economy has lately been getting better!”,
  8. go back home.

I realize I’m biased, but I do think some law enforcement or alternatives to “letter my employer refuses to give me” instead of #6 would have been nice.

People freak out over a national ID card which is weird because we already have one…our Social Security card.

Yeah, it was never meant for that but it gets used that way all the time. Thing is it sucks as a national ID and is dangerous to use that way but since people freak out over a national ID card everyone uses the one national ID we all have.

CGP Grey did a good video on this. Worth a watch.

Yeah, they’d be scared that the next time a Dem is in office, they’ll be rounded up and stacked like cordwood in abandoned Walmarts interconnected by a network of secret 500+ mile long tunnels. ( I remember trying to explain to a CT friend of mine the extreme technical improbability of digging a continuous 500 mile tunnel ( all that dirt has to be moved somewhere ), but his response was “how else can you explain the shutting down of all those Walmarts in Texas?” My head exploded.

Seriously, I’d like to see a way to hook up these arriving refugees with job opportunities in agriculture and food processing and give them work visas if they are hired. But the Republicans still maintain the fiction that there are native born Americans that want these jobs. My personal anecdotal survey shows that:

  1. I do not know a single Republican that has every harvested crops or worked in a food processing plant.

  2. I do not know a single Republican that has ever applied for a job harvesting crops or working in a food processing plant.

  3. I do not know a single Republican that has ever been turned down for a job in favor of an immigrant worker.

  4. I do know Republicans that think their lazy friends or neighbors on SSDI would work harvesting crops or processing food if their benefits were cut off. These are often Republicans that are collecting SSDI themselves.

  5. I know LOTS of Republicans that get tweaked whenever they hear someone speaking Spanish in public. Usually because they think these random Hispanics are talking about them. Or could get away with talking about them. It’s a culture of paranoia.

So, because of 5, my idea will not gain traction. We’ll see how far that $8 a week tax cut goes when an apple costs $6.

I know, I know; the plural of anecdote does NOT equal data. However…

I am quite familiar with the construction business, where the bottom rung of employees is full of undocumented or recently immigrated day laborers working for a couple hundred dollars a day on a day by day basis. I also know that the one thing contractors most look for in these employees is the ability to speak English. You don’t need construction experience. Many of the guys getting hired don’t have construction experience. You need to be able to listen to instructions and carry them out, ideally eagerly and quickly. Remember, we aren’t talking about skilled laborers installing drywall – we are talking about an extra set of hands. Believe it or not, there is a huge demand for that.

I’ve had a number of friends over the last few years who have at some point become unemployed or who worked a minimum wage part time job, barely supporting themselves. I let them know about this opportunity. It’s physical labor, to be sure, but for $200 to $250 a day (here in Southern California) in cash, that’s a much better return than they get waiting tables. But they just. Won’t. Do it. I’ve even got some of them in touch with people in the business. People who said to them, “come work as my assistant for a few months, after this you’ll be able to lay tile or do drywall yourself and can take your own jobs”. And without exception every American native I’ve offered this to turned me down. It’s too hard, the hours are long, they’d rather make $5 an hour plus tips waiting tables in an air conditioned restaurant than doing the jobs that migrants are “stealing” from them. So no, we don’t need to get rid of immigrants. We need to encourage them. Because the jobs they do, we won’t.

Blalron suggested a real, biometrics-based national ID card, which is much more than a Social Security card. (And actually, I haven’t had a physical Social Security card in a couple of decades and have never needed it.) For an example of a biometrics-based national ID card in use at a much larger scale, look at what the world’s biggest democracy set up. I can see some advantages to such a thing but I also recognize the privacy concerns. (One fun aspect of the Indian system; you can check when government employees arrived at and left from the office.)

How much would the pay need to be, for those jobs to be palatable in the free market? $50 an hour?


Interested in changing the laws around underage drinking, then?

Personally, I’ve had a lot of ideas like OP’s, and have come to the same conclusions: It’s the racism, stupid! Or, Law-and-order is only immutable when applied to people other than our White, White voting bloc.

The Democrats would only have a problem with it if the Republicans succeeded in making it impossible for the poor and the non-White to obtain.