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Immigration: Pandering to fears is shameful

The Clarion-Ledger

Which is worse, a politician pandering to fears just to make political hay or a politician passing a law that can't be enforced and makes criminals of law-abiding businesses just to make political hay?

With the state's anti-immigration bill newly elected Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant pushed through the Legislature and Gov. Haley Barbour signed into law, they've done both!

At least Barbour acknowledged that Senate Bill 2988 he OK'd Monday is a stinker - "I have serious concerns ... the bill could have unintended negative consequences," he said.

But, then, passing the buck for signing a bad bill into a bad law, he added: "I urge the Legislature to make the necessary technical changes to ensure this bill will have the intended effect." Don't count on it.

Why not leave immigration to Congress where it belongs? New legislation is being developed to protect employers and ensure legal workers by both Republicans (www.legal-workforce.org) and Democrats (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backs the bipartisan STRIVE Act of 2007).

The Legislature was stampeded into passing this abomination because state lawmakers saw what happened to former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott when he backed a reasonable federal law to address immigration. He got pilloried by the right wing of his party.

Bryant, who had started as state auditor wondering about the cost to the state from illegal immigration, apparently found to his surprise and satisfaction that he could turn that interest into votes at the ballot box.

What both Republicans need to realize is that the fury behind such bad dog bills can bite you.

Ask Lott whose attempt to seek a workable solution to a difficult problem turned longtime supporters into enemies overnight.

SB 2988 is just another in a bevy of bills in legislatures nationwide that pander to talk show blowhards offering a lot of heat but not much light on immigration. It is resulting in a patchwork of conflicting ostensibly anti-immigration but in fact anti-business laws.

The E-Verify system the bill uses is blatantly flawed. If it's used, an estimated 6 million U.S. citizens and legal residents could wrongly be denied employment. That's not including its inability to detect identity theft or fraud, which makes even the most law-abiding employers criminals.

How any conservative pro-business Republican could support a dog like SB 2988 shows how rabid is the anti-immigration fever.

But it's shameful to feed irrational fears with irrational laws.

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