Rich Tucker

No wonder. About 100,000 El Alto residents have jobs because they?re able to export products to the U.S. duty-free. As Juan Carlos Machicado, a supervisor at the plant, put it, ?I?m in favor of free trade. It?s helping us move forward. I wouldn?t have thought this way five years ago. But now I work here.?

The people in El Alto probably don?t love the United States. But they?re gainfully employed, and they?re not risking their lives to come here. The same thing can happen in Mexico, if we maintain our free-trade policies and convince the Mexican government to privatize inefficient state-owned industries.

Of course, charity begins at home, and so does the battle against illegal immigration. It?s pretty clear that illegal immigrants are working here; how else did they earn that $12 billion they sent home? Not by hitting the lottery.

But for some reason, our government isn?t punishing those who employ illegals.

TIME magazine reports that in 2002, even as millions of illegals poured across our border, the Immigration and Naturalization Service opened only about 2,000 investigations of employers. That?s down from 7,000 in 1992. Even worse, the magazine notes that, ?fines for immigration-law violations plunged 99 percent, from 1,063 in 1992 to 13 in 2002.?

Employers see that they can easily hire illegal aliens, save money by not paying benefits to those employees or paying taxes on their wages, and never face any penalties. So why wouldn?t they hire illegals?

The necessary laws already exist. In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said employers could be fined as much as $10,000 for each illegal they hire. Repeat offenders could be locked up.

This law?s never really been enforced. But imagine if it was. Suddenly, employers would face a true risk for employing illegals. And if we made the risk greater than the reward, the problem would swiftly go away.

We can?t round up everyone who crosses the border illegally. And we don?t have to.
Let?s help the Mexicans help themselves, by encouraging free trade and by enforcing our own laws. Then, maybe we can play soccer with our neighbors, without hearing from the boo-birds.


Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for Townhall.com.