I presume you've heard of the fun and games up in the Dallas suburb of Farmer's Branch, where apartment managers have been forcibly deputized into an arm of la Migra. Not too surprisingly, they're not happy about this development, which took place without any input from them.
''The last thing I want to be doing is asking, 'Where's your papers?' " said Angie Iraheta, manager of the 142-unit Villa Marquis Apartments. ''And how am I supposed to know if what they're giving me is real?"
Making local cops be responsible for enforcing federal law is bad enough, but at least they have actual law enforcement training and experience. Ms. Iraheta hits the nail on the head here: How is an apartment manager supposed to cope with this new requirement? What training will they need, and who will provide (and pay for) it? How will we know if they're actually doing the job they've been unwillingly tasked with doing, and why will policing their enforcement of the law be any more efficient than simply enforcing the law?
Of course, as with the nonexistant border fence, this wasn't about policy. It was about making a Grand Symbolic Gesture. On that count, they've succeeded.
''Landlords can't really serve as law enforcement or be held accountable for carrying out a function that belongs with the government," said Gerry Henigsman, executive vice president of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, which represents 1,600 apartment owners in the region, including the dozen or so complexes in Farmers Branch that will be affected by the new ordinance.
"Farmers Branch conveniently moves the responsibility for immigration enforcement to the landlord and says, 'If you don't do it we're going to fine you,' " he said.
Henigsman said the Farmers Branch City Council passed its ordinance without giving his group an opportunity to comment. Council members allowed people to voice their opposition or support of the measure only after the vote was taken Monday.
"I was shocked they passed it and after the fact said they were going to allow public input," said Henigsman, who had prepared to address the council. "It kind of defeats the whole idea of public input."
He noted that Farmers Branch dropped a proposal to penalize businesses for hiring illegal immigrants and instead singled out apartment housing.
"I think it's telling illegal immigrants, 'We don't mind you working in our city in minimum-wage jobs, cutting our grass. We don't mind you spending money in our stores. We just don't want you living here and sending your children to our schools," he said.
Yep, that's pretty much the extent of the gesture. I guess that's somehow more elegant than simply raising one's middle finger, but not by much.
One more thing, from an earlier story:
"We passed this expecting to be sued," council member Tim O'Hare said after the vote.
So, Council Member O'Hare, how much money has the city of Farmer's Branch budgeted for its legal defense in this matter? Does that total include the possibility of damages? What taxes will you be raising, and/or what services will you be cutting, in order to pay for this? I'm beginning to see why this was done without any public input. Too many messy questions get asked that way.
In the Pink has more.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 16, 2006 to National news
Was at a dinner party the other day and talking to one of the 'winger doctors that my wife works with. Doctors around here are understandably frustrated with the immigration issue as they are really on the front line. My wife is herself an immigrant from Latin America (Chile) and even she has turned harsh on the illegal immigration issue.
In any event, this guy was going off on how the local cops should be enforcing immigration laws. And so I took him up on the conversation like this:
Me: "So then you think local police ought to be enforcing federal laws?"
Him: "Damn straight"
"Yeah, I tend to agree. In fact, when you get down to it, the most commonly violated set of federal laws is the federal tax code. A whole lot more people in this country thumb their noses at the tax laws than they do immigration laws. And tax evaders cost the government a whole lot more than illegal immigrants. That's for certain. Wow. just think how much easier it would be to balance the federal budget if we sicced the local cops onto tax cheats. IRS agents just like INS agents are really spread way too thin. They could really use the help of local cops. I want to see my local cops showing up with a microscope to look at the books of all these local business and corporations who are ripping off the taxpayers blind. That would be way cool. I expect you would welcome that wouldn't you?"
Him: [confused silence] "But that's different. Tax laws aren't real laws like immigration laws"
Me: "Actually they are EXACTLY the same if not more serious. You can get more prison time for tax evasion than illegal immigration. In fact, why stop at tax laws? I'd like to see the local cops start enforcing the EPAs clean air and clean water regulations and the COE's wetlands protection regulations, because there are a hell of a lot of farms and businesses around here who are out of compliance with those federal laws as well. And don't even get me started on federal OSHA regulations. I'd like to see the local cops do some serious investigations of workplace safety problems at the local poultry plants." And, of course we can go the other way too. We can start asking federal agents to enforce local laws. Pull the local FBI off organized crime and terrorism and send them out to enforce highway laws?
Him: "Yeah, well that's just getting ridiculous."
Me: "Ya think? So maybe it isn't such a great idea after all for the local cops to involve themselves in enforcing federal laws? Because it's a slippery slope isn't it? Why stop with immigration when there are dozens of other federal laws that also merit enforcement? Maybe it isn't such a bad idea for our local cops to focus on public safety and crime like they're supposed to?
Him: [uncomfortable silence] OK, maybe you have a point.