The GOP’s Anti-Immigration Boondoggles: When it comes to immigration, the Republicans love big government
If you’re looking for something to sum up all that is wrong with American politics today, you could do worse than the Republican presidential candidates’ debate over immigration.
Take this comment from Mitt Romney at a recent town hall meeting in Iowa: “You’ve got to crack down on employers that hire people that are illegal, and that means you have to have a system that identifies who’s here legally, with a biometric card that has: ‘This is the person, they’re allowed to work here.’ You say to an employer, ‘You look at that card, you swipe it in your computer, you type in the number, it instantly tells you whether they’re legal or not.’”
Romney’s comments are the latest round in the GOP’s modern version of the old radio comedy show, “Can You Top This?” Most of the candidates (including Romney) support completely fencing off the southern border to prevent employers from hiring someone without a government permission slip. But one plain old fence is not good enough for Michele Bachmann, who wants to put up two fences—or for Herman Cain, who wants the fence electrified. Does anyone care to bid three fences? Four?
In his Iowa remarks, Romney endorsed a biometric card—a high-tech ID that contains fingerprints, iris scans, or similar unique personal identifiers. The casual listener might think only certain people—such as Latinos with thick accents—would need to carry such a card. To the contrary: Every U.S. resident would be required to present one when applying for a job. This is not Big Brother. This is Big Brother with a bad case of ‘roid rage. It’s like making every American apply for a gun license to catch the tiny few who are forbidden to own firearms.
Conservatives who crack jokes about the efficiency of the Postal Service and the compassion of the IRS should apply that same skepticism to Romney’s idea. A card only verifies ID. It does not determine whether the government says someone can work—immigration regulations do that. So under an electronic verification system, when a check fails to confirm eligibility the employer informs the applicant—who can then dispute the rejection with the appropriate federal agencies. Imagine, say, a fast-paced tech start-up trying to hire workers while federal bureaucrats dawdle. When has government ever done anything “instantly”?
Romney—the presumptive front-runner for the party of ostensibly limited government—is now on record promoting (a) the individual mandate forcing people to buy health insurance, and (b) a second individual mandate to present your government papers when asking for a job.
Expanding the scope of government as Romney suggests is dangerous enough when done to meet a genuine threat—because the expansion likely will last long after the threat has disappeared. To do it in response to a phantom threat, however, is simply daft.