Politics & Policy

The High Price of Cheap Labor

Immigration's darker side.

Heather Mac Donald is stirring up trouble again.

A petite, unassuming woman, Mac Donald is not one who on first acquaintance gives the impression of a rabble-rouser. But recall the dustup that greeted the publication of her last book, Are Cops Racist? How the War Against the Police Harms Black Americans, which I reviewed in this space a year ago. Now, just when the hate mail engendered by the book has begun to taper off, she returns with the makings for another, perhaps even larger, controversy, one especially ill timed for the Bush administration.

Her latest article for the Manhattan Institute’s quarterly, City Journal, is called “The Illegal Alien Crime Wave,” and it presents some inconvenient facts for those inclined toward a less restrictive immigration policy. She points out that among the tempest-tost arriving at our golden door are not just the poor, the tired, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but the killers, rapists, and assorted thugs who take gleeful advantage of our already schizophrenic attitudes on border enforcement. Consider some of the statistics Mac Donald cites:

‐In Los Angeles, 95 percent of the outstanding murder warrants are for illegal aliens, as are perhaps two-thirds of the 17,000 outstanding felony warrants.

‐Southern California’s largest Hispanic street gang, 18th Street, has some 20,000 members, roughly 60 percent of whom are illegal aliens. (The LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, by comparison, have a combined strength of about 17,000 officers.)

‐In 2000, nearly 30 percent of federal prisoners were foreign-born.

These numbers are troubling to our friends at the Wall Street Journal, who quite naturally see the world with a view toward the corporate bottom line. In a January 9 editorial titled “Immigrant Realities,” the Journal cites the wide disparity in per-capita income between the United States ($32,000) and Mexico ($3,679) as the primary attraction for the estimated eight million illegal immigrants currently living here. (Eight million is the Journal’s number; others put it as high as twelve million.) Granted, the grass is far greener on our side of the fence, but this “reality” is no more real than those cited by Mac Donald, who reminds us that all that cheap labor comes at a price that may not be so cheap, most especially to the victims of crimes perpetrated by illegal aliens. The New York Post reported last week on the sentencing of one Victor Cruz for the December 2002 attack in which he and four codefendants kidnapped and raped a Queens woman near Shea Stadium, a crime the sentencing judge described as “one of blood-chilling inhumanity.” All of the attackers but one were illegal aliens, a fact that, as Bill O’Reilly noted on his television program Friday, was overlooked by the New York Times, the Daily News, and Newsday. Only the Post, which ran the story under the headline “Evil Rape ‘Savages,’” took note of the perpetrators’ immigration status.

Mac Donald reports that NYPD officers previously had arrested three of these illegals for such crimes as assault, attempted robbery, possession of firearms, and drug offenses, but, following department policy, the officers never reported any of these arrests to the INS, a step that may have resulted in the men being deported and thereby sparing the unfortunate woman her life-altering ordeal. In New York, as in Los Angeles and many other cities, locally enacted sanctuary laws prohibit police officers from inquiring into a person’s immigration status except in extraordinary circumstances. In Los Angeles, this prohibition goes to the laughable extreme of protecting even those who have already been deported after being convicted of a felony and serving time in a California prison. Thus, as I have experienced, if a police officer is driving down the street and spots a man whom he has arrested in the past, and who he knows has been sent to prison and then deported, he is constrained from making an arrest or even a detention, this despite the fact that re-entry into the United States under such circumstances is a federal felony. And on those occasions when I have arrested previously deported aliens for misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies (drug dealing, for instance), immigration officials have told me they would not pursue federal charges unless the underlying local charge was more serious. In fact, it is frustratingly common for police officers to find on an arrestee’s rap sheet the notation “deportation proceedings initiated,” prompting the question: Well, then, why is he here?

He is here because we have been unwilling to stop him, even now with the nation under threat of attack. The men and women of the Border Patrol, who at the Mexican border work under some of the harshest conditions in law enforcement, know they are fighting a war that some here at home would just as soon see them lose. Imagine risking your life day after day at the border, in extreme weather and over treacherous terrain, then driving to Los Angeles to see entire neighborhoods teeming with people who not only evaded your efforts but who seem to have little fear of being apprehended. It is clear that with our thousands of miles of international borders and open coastline it would be impossible to prevent anyone possessed of sufficient initiative from coming here if he chooses, but must it be as easy as it is today? In its editorial, the Wall Street Journal says smugly, “We could always next build a Berlin Wall along the 2,000 miles of U.S.-Mexican border, or deploy the 101st Airborne, but we doubt Americans would be morally comfortable with either.” Perhaps this is so, but I suspect Americans are even less morally comfortable with the Journal’s analogizing the recognized border of this freest of all nations with that stark symbol of Communist tyranny, a barrier erected to keep people in, not out.

We are still, as President Bush said in announcing his immigration proposal, a welcoming country. May we always be. But can’t we demand that our guests cross the welcome mat at the front door and not come like a thief through the back window? Can’t we expect them to mind their manners while they’re here? And can’t we above all choose whom to welcome and whom to turn away?

Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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