Supreme Court Renders Immigration Law Feckless: Why ICE is Nice
Steven is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
The inconsistent and unorganized handling of illegal immigrants is a major problem for the United States. It is estimated that the economy was hurt by a matter of billions because of the deportation of Mexican workers. The circus involving ICE investigations and deportations of illegal immigrants at Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) in 2010 and 2011 pointed to the screaming need for immigration reform. It is a twelve billion market cap company with 1262 restaurants. The United States can not afford to hassle companies like this at this fragile point in our economic history.
A worker visa program that takes into consideration the special case of Mexican immigrants may be part of the solution. States like Arizona were frustrated to the point that Arizona tried to take matters into their ultraconservative hands. The Supreme Court, with the majority opinion written by conservative Justice Roberts, told Arizona to back off and leave enforcement to the federal government.
The Supreme Court recently struck down three of four measures of Arizona's immigration law SB1070. The high court outright disallowed local police from arresting people for failure to register as an alien, from arresting unauthorized aliens for obtaining a job, or from arresting without a warrant people the local police believe may have committed a crime that makes them deportable. The fourth provision, requiring local police to check the immigration status of persons stopped in some instances, was considered the most important part of the four tiered law. This provision was theoretically upheld but was pragmatically disabled. Let me explain.
Local police can ask a person they stop about their immigration status, but then can do little or nothing about it without the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) being involved. Enforcement of immigration laws is a federal duty, not a state or local perogative. After the officer stops a person and asks their immigration status, he must contact ICE to enforce the immigration law.
Whether ICE decides to enforce the immigration law in any given incident is up to the executive branch of government. The federal government has broad discretion as to whether a statute will be enforced in a given case. The executive branch simply indicated to ICE recently that immigration statutes will be enforced in just three cases: (1) if the person was a repeat immigration violator and was deported in the past, (2) if the person just recently crossed the border, or (3) if the person committed a major or violent crime.
Obama offering to increase the number of visas for foreign workers and allowing work permits to immigrants under certain conditions will help solve at least two problems: (1) American companies being fined for hiring noncriminal and longtime residents, and (2) American companies can import and retain skilled foreign workers.
Companies like McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) were fined repeatedly for hiring illegal immigrants. These companies would hire citizens, and would prefer to hire citizens, if they were available; however, citizens frequently do not vie for these jobs either because of the nature of the work as may be more the case with McDonald's, or, as may be more the case with Wal-Mart, the economically depressed area the store is located in may discourage some citizens from applying for work.
There is no data, understandably, on how many immigrants working in fast food restaurants are illegal; however, the Migration Policy Institute commissioned Reuters to conduct a survey in March of 2010 which found twenty-four percent of all restaurant workers were immigrants. Allowing work permits to be issued to noncriminal foreign longtime residents would remove hassle from these thriving companies.
Issuing more visas to companies for skilled foreign workers is important for growing the economy. Companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) need to be able to transfer skilled technology software developers and inventors from their foreign bases to this country. As Microsoft's Bill Gates pointed out, some technology "rock stars" tend to be unique and idiosyncratic, and vital to the growth of the company which ultimately produces more American jobs. These "stars" are not taking American jobs as much as they are helping the company to grow because few others are able to match their genius.
Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) executive Robert Hoffman noted that the United States runs out of visas for educated and skilled immigrants long before the date the allotment for that type of visa ends. Hoffman argues that running out of visas prevents technology companies from capturing the best and brightest among the world's technology wizards.
Arizona governor Jan Brewer gave lengthy speeches after the recent Supreme Court decision expressing her joy that she thought the heart of the law, that fourth provision, had been upheld. It was upheld, but was rendered meaningless and feckless by the conditions the Supreme Court placed upon its enforcement. Conditions which the Obama administration promised it will not enforce. This feckless decision will only be enforced at the discretion of ICE.
And that's nice.
LifeForceDance has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald's, Microsoft, and Oracle. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald's, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.