Immigration lunacy

One indicator of panic in crowds and individuals is an inability to seek or understand what’s in one’s own interest. The amazing plan from DHS on immigration is one such indicator. The Times editorial gets half the story right, but misses the other half. Recall that our current tested and practiced immigration policy has the following three pieces, a sort of sandwich that would seem imminently fissionable if not glued together by the middle part:

(1) Savage and heartless enforcement on a few illegal immigrants as criminals. A few. Not a lot; see (3). A few. Immigrants, not employers; see (3). Reread this until you understand it completely.

(2) Splendid and stentorian rhetoric, along with photo-ops of the occasional jobsite raid from (1), deploring criminals who take jobs from Americans. Talking points: criminals are brown, poor, and foreign, and they come here to luxuriate on welfare and crime amid our famous free everything. Those guys waiting at the curb near the Home Depot? They’re waiting for the welfare truck to come by and throw your money at them, not offering to spend the day digging in the sun for a few bucks and a glass of water! Don’t be fooled!


a. Assiduous protection of cheap and docile labor for employers who would prefer not to pay what Americans would charge, especially in a few industries like agriculture, food processing, and hospitality. Illegal status is very important to the cheap part of this. Also the docile part.

b. Assiduous protection of services and traditions at the heart of the American way of life, including pool cleaning, staying in nice hotels, eating out, home renovation, child care from nannies, gardening, and housecleaning. If these aren’t cheap and abundant, it’s as bad as raising taxes on the rich.

The poor souls in DHS, apparently unhinged by anticipating the ’08 elections, or some new horror from an IG or a Hill committee hearing, have completely forgotten (3), and worse, put a serious enforcement program into the hands of civil servants in the Social Security Administration, an army that will be as hard to call back as the sorcerer’s apprentice’s brooms. It’s been so long since the last helpful political briefing that they have also forgotten that the employers in 3a and consumers in 3b are W’s people! They’re Republicans! Guys, we deplore illegal immigrant workers when Rupert needs a story – maybe even abuse a few; we don’t actually deprive ourselves of them!

With the loss of the Weekly World News*, I have to pick up the mantle in my own small way. This can only be a virus unleashed into the Rovian cerebronet by an Al Q’aeda wonk, that’s blown out neural circuits all over Washington and is spreading up K Street as we speak.

*No immigration angle, but don’t miss this hilarious Peter Carlson piece in the WaPo.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.