By Martin Bosworth
Yesterday the Bush regime announced a new series of “get tough” moves against illegal immigrants and their employers, in the form of cracking down on employees using unverified Social Security numbers, more raids and border protection measures, and streamlining existing guest visitor programs. The press (doing its job for once) largely recognizes these manuevers for what they are–petulant responses to the collapse of the “guest worker compromise bill”, and a frantic appeal to the immigrant-hating base of the shrinking GOP support bill.
Let’s be straight–I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the businesses crying foul that they’ll be fined for hiring illegal immigrants. But rather than face the fines or–gasp–paying their employees decent wages, they’ll probably just fire the illegals, which will leave them on the streets, looking for other work, or otherwise clogging our already-strained public welfare system. As the pointless raids on the SWIFT meatpacking plants showed, using black-armored stormtroopers to intimidate frightened border jumpers doesn’t do a thing to curb illegal immigration–or the theft of personal information that enables undocumented workers to get SSNs in the first place.
The basic problem with illegal immigration remains the same–the underground economy where thieves sell personal information to immigrants or other crooks. Every laptop theft, data breach, or outside hack by black hats feeds this economy, enabling millions of pieces of personal data to be remixed and recombined into new identities which sell on the cheap.
Undocumented aliens who buy these identities also pay taxes and support the Social Security system. The “pool” of unidentified or unmatched benefits has swollen to the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. The government likes this because it helps maintain the Social Security fund. The IRS loves it because of the tax revenue. Corporations love it because it “legitimizes” the workers they hire–“Hey! He’s got an SSN! He can’t be illegal.” And Americans love it because it enables us to buy cheap goods thanks to the never-ending supply of low-cost, low-maintenance labor.
The only people who really lose in this situation are the immigrants themselves, who live with a Sword of Damocles over their heads for the day they get found out and arrested, and the identity theft victims who never know their SSNs and other information are being misused–until the day they are hit with bills and charges they never incurred, with names on accounts that are not theirs.
The Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies supported the guest worker bill because it would create a permanent underclass of non-voting workers who are rotated in and out of the country without ever having a clear path to citizenship, thus assuring labor stays cheap and wages stay low. The plan would have done nothing to address the issues of ID theft and security caused by information selling–if anything, the proposed new database would have made matters worse. But that bill failed, and now the Chamber and company are apoplectic because Bush has chosen to placate the nativists and xenophobes who fear brown people above and beyond all else.
Until we get serious about cracking down on the underground economy and plugging the massive holes in our information security on every level, all these moves are is political theater mixed with racism and a little passive-aggressive revenge on the side.