Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican, Tea Party extremist that the Koch brothers have been pushing toward the US Senate appeared this week before an Iowa Chamber of commerce group, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and gave her views on how to control immigration, immediately lying about her connection to the Koch brothers and blowing off any attempt at a comprehensive solution to the problem.
This simplistically one dimensional approach, long a mainstay of GOP rhetoric is rooted in their pandering to the irrational fears of their base. As the battle for control of the Senate hinges more and more on states where Hispanic voters who favor a balanced long term strategy, GOP Senate hopefuls have moved farther and farther to the right in their policy stance. Iowa, with only 2.7% Hispanic voters is a perfect example.
FOX News and other right wing media outlets have done all they can to stoke that base’s fears by connecting border security by hyping fears of an impending Ebola epidemic, however groundless and tenuous that connection may be. Ernst’s proposal tacitly acknowledges those fears.
In doing so, Ernst fell in line with long standing Republican dogma. Back in August, house Speaker, John Boehner was quoted, “Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion,” he said. “Nor will we accept any attempt to add any other comprehensive immigration reform bill or anything like it, including the DREAM Act, to the House’s targeted legislation, which is meant to fix the actual problems causing the border crisis. Such measures have no place in the effort to solve this crisis, and any attempt to exploit this crisis by adding such measures will run into a brick wall in the People’s House.” Let me get that straight, efforts “ to fix the actual problems” “have no place in the effort to solve this crisis.” Wow.
GOP Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama came out in favor of deportation for half a million Dreamers and at least 8 million others who are working illegally in the US. This is nothing new of course. He joins a long line of GOP spokesmen who have been repeating it. It is, after all, red meat to the xenophobes in the T Party.
My first thought on hearing this is that no one repeating this line should be allowed to go on record without also being asked if they will approve the hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost. One estimate in 2012 pegged it at $285 Billion. This included $13,368/immigrant for apprehension but nothing for the massive intelligence budget that would be needed to come even close to completing the job.
Ernst’s and the other Republicans’ insistence on a border first, last, and only approach instead of a comprehensive answer is akin to trying to stop the flooding Mississippi by pumping the water upstream. Without a comprehensive program that not only addresses those already here, but halts the flood of immigrants before they set out to come here, the $300 billion spent on deportation would be wasted. It would take years to deport those already here and new immigrants would take their places before the current ones have gone. We are already spending more than ever before on border security and a fence that no one truly believes will ever be effective. No matter how much this is increased, the flow of human traffic will not be stopped.
There is one reason that millions of immigrants have come here and millions more will surely follow, jobs. It is also the reason most Americans see immigration as a problem. It is already illegal for an undocumented worker to take a job in the US. It has been for more than 25 years. What more can we do? We can increase a fine they already cannot pay. We can add more jail time and house and feed them at our expense, or we can go on deporting them at a cost of over $23,000 apiece.
What is overlooked is the side of the equation over which we can do something, the employer. In the words of liberal radio host, Thom Hartmann, “We don’t have an illegal immigrant problem, we have an illegal hiring problem.” This is where it gets sticky for the GOP. You see, employers like what adding 10 million immigrants does to the labor pool. Even those who don’t hire them benefit from lower overall wages. And they don’t like the idea of going after those whose business models are predicated on preying on a workforce that lives in fear.
Joni Ernst wants to focus on the immigrants who break the law. But every time an immigrant breaks the law by taking a job, an employer breaks law as well, many of those are multiple offenders. If the worker does not contribute to American taxes, it is only because that employer has broken the law again by failing to withhold or to report those taxes. Often, they’ve done the withholding, just not the reporting, thus stealing the money from the employee and cheating the government at the same time.
If we are going to get serious about immigration, this is where we must begin. We must provide a data base for employers to confirm eligibility so there can be no excuse due to questionable ID. We must increase the penalties for each offense to the point where it is never cheaper to break the law than to obey it. And we must include the prospect of prison for those employers who flaunt the law with repeat offenses as to make a mockery of it.
If we do these things, the magnet drawing illegal immigrants will be reversed to the point where we’ll need to open the fences on the border to let them all out – then fear mongers like Joni Ernst will have to find some other bogey man to dangle in front of their base.
In the following video, watch Ernst flat-out lie about her connection to the Koch brothers when confronted by Lauren Windsor from American Family Voices: