Better than a 5-cent cigar

Posted: Dec 22, 2006 12:01 AM
Better than a 5-cent cigar

If there’s one thing upstate New York needs, it’s some private industry jobs. Back in 2000, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton promised to help create 200,000 new jobs in the region. Not quite.

The region’s problems predate Hillary, and they’ll still exist when she’s running for president. All told, a mere 38,300 new private sector jobs were created upstate between 1990 and 2005. All other new jobs there, according to the Public Policy Institute of New York State, were taxpayer-financed jobs.

In fact, 200,000 people a year leave the state to live elsewhere. And some 30 percent of those listed as “new residents” aren’t happy to be there -- they’re prisoners. Luckily, though, I’ve got an idea to create jobs upstate: a cigar-rolling plant.

In 1890 there were scores of cigar plants in the region. They employed 5,000 people in Binghamton, N.Y., alone. And cigars have only increased in popularity in recent years. Oh, and to make the enterprise profitable, I’ll sell the cigars without paying the required federal and state taxes. So: When the feds raid my plant, who will go to jail? The workers making the tax-free cigars, or the plant owner (me)?

Well, of course, the owner would. You can’t expect the government to goof around when tax revenues are involved. Clearly the person in charge of the criminal enterprise has to be punished.

Yet, while nobody doubts the government is serious about collecting taxes, there’s little evidence it’s serious about cracking down on something equally important -- illegal immigration. Consider the recent raids at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in Denver. More than 1,300 alleged illegal aliens were arrested -- but the company that employed them escaped unscathed. No managers were detained.

This makes no sense.

If the United States wants to get serious about stopping illegal immigration, we need to crack down on the corporations (and their CEOs) that make money on the backs of illegal alien labor.

This isn’t rocket science. Illegal aliens basically do five types of jobs: janitorial, construction, food service, dangerous manufacturing and landscaping. So we know where they are.

It’s illegal to hire them, yet they’re somehow still getting hired. If we really cracked down on their bosses – which would mean giving serious jail time to CEOs whose companies hire illegals -- corporations would quickly get the message and stop hiring illegals. Once that happened, most illegals (since they’re here to work) would leave the country.

At the same time, we need to slow the flow of new immigrants by pressing ahead with the border fence our lawmakers have promised to build. Fences work. Consider the words of a correspondent who volunteers for a border patrol on his days off. “Because of OUR fence, it’s become virtually impossible for groups of people to walk through our area,” he reports from the frontier. “Fences do work.”

Sadly, though, there’s a chance the government will back away from its promise to build a fence. And it wouldn’t be the first time the government failed to take action. Back in 1996, Congress mandated the development of a system to track aliens as they leave the U.S., so we’ll know who’s here and who has left.

Yet just last week, the assistant secretary for homeland security policy told The New York Times his agency couldn’t build such a system right now. “It is a pretty daunting set of costs, both for the U.S. government and the economy,” Stewart Baker said. “Congress has said, ‘We want you to do it.’ We are not going to ignore what Congress has said. But the costs here are daunting.”

Sadly, it’s not difficult to picture something similar happening with the border fence. Unless we make sure the politicians keep their promise, Americans could wake up in 2016 with no wall and be hearing bureaucrats say, “Sorry, we just never did get around to building one.” There’s no reason the Mexican economy can’t thrive. After all, its people are extremely creative. As my friend reports from the border, illegal aliens “refuse to stop when pursued, and typically load the tires with silicon to make them impervious to spike strips, and beef up the bumpers to facilitate ramming gates, fences and pursuing law enforcement vehicles, or civilian cars who just happen to be in the way.”

That’s the sort of inventiveness the U.S. needs to encourage in the Mexican economy. If Mexico’s government would open up state-owned industries (such as the oil company Pemex), it would create jobs at home for entrepreneurs. Instead of trying to come here, more Mexicans could stay home and become rich. It’s easy to see what a government thinks is important; observe what it does (taxation) and what it ignores (illegal immigration). We need our government to get serious about stopping illegal immigration. Washington has the means -- and the laws are already on the books. It’s time to muster the political will to fix this problem before it becomes any worse.

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