In his NY Post article, A 'CRACKDOWN' THAT WASN'T - DUBYA'S IMMIGRATION ARRESTS, (ht: commenter "falco" at Polipundit) O'Sullivan uses the Great Pallet Raid to do the initial setup for the takedown of Dubya about his immigration policies. Fine, nuttin' new there. But when I reached this:
I was stopped in my tracks. Numbers tend to do that to me, especially when they rise and/or fall dramatically (80% increase from '95 - '97 followed by a 97% freefall through '04). Why did they rise so dramatically in Clinton's second term and why did they fall off the cliff in Bush's first term? Hmmm... that struck me as perplexing and so I set off with my trusty google to try and have a look at the numbers and see if any sense could be made of them. My discovery was somewhat unsatisfying but here's where it has taken me.
I recently suggested - wrongly - that there had been little or no enforcement of employer sanctions since the passage of the 1986 amnesty law; that, once an illegal reached a major city such as Los Angeles, Phoenix or Chicago, he was safe from official interest and could work unmolested. That was not quite accurate. The Clinton administration in fact managed some (albeit patchy) "internal" enforcement of employer sanctions. For instance, the period 1995-1997 saw 10,000 to 18,000 worksite arrests of illegals a year. Some 1,000 employers were served notices of fines for employing them.
Under the Bush administration, however, worksite arrests fell to 159 in 2004 - with the princely total of three notices of intent to fine served on employers. Thus, worksite arrests under President Bush have fallen from Clintonian levels by something like 97 per cent - even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime.
First, where did those numbers come from? I don't know but according to this DoJ report:
INS national worksite arrest statistics and removal targets reinforce what we were told in the field. INS has reported approximately 10,000 to 12,000 worksite arrests of illegal aliens annually from FY 1991 to FY 1995. INS has targeted 12,400 worksite arrests for FY 1996 and 17,200 for FY 1997. Prior to FY 1996, INS did not track removals associated with worksite enforcement. However, INS intends to modify systems to track these removals this fiscal year. INS has targeted 1,680 worksite enforcement removals for each of FY 1996 and FY 1997. If INS meets these targets, its removal rates for aliens arrested in the worksite will be 13.5 percent for FY 1996 and 9.8 percent for FY 1997.
These seem to agree closely enough with O'Sullivan's numbers. “Worksite arrests” were running around 10-12K annually entering into the Clinton administration and seem to have been growing somewhat and then reached a spike in ‘97. That’s the 18,000 year that Sullivan quotes although it says 17,200 for '97. Close enough for gummint work.What the devil was going on over these years. Well, I found some hints in this Migration News piece.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 introduced federal sanctions on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized foreigners. However, in an effort to ensure that employers would not discriminate against minorities, IRCA made it an offense for an employer to request more documents from some newly hired workers than others, or to specify particular work-authorization documents that new hires must present. The result was confusion and a proliferation of false documents during a time of very limited enforcement.OK, so the DOJ/INS gave employers voluntary access to a system that did a reasonable, but slow and somewhat mistake prone, job of verifying the legal work status of the people they were considering hiring. The spike of worksite arrests and employer fines in ‘97 probably “encouraged” some additional “voluntary” access to this system. The net of all this is that by ‘97 the big boys wanted no part of hiring illegals (well, they wanted no part of the fines and bad press) and were pretty much out of the jobs to illegal aliens game.
By 1994, when the Commission on Immigration Reform examined workplace enforcement of immigration laws, document fraud had become so widespread that CIR called for a new national registry to verify new hires. Critics decried the expense and "Big Brother" aspects of a national registry, and the 1996 Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act instead called for the government to test three pilot verification systems with employers who volunteered to participate. The Basic Pilot, the only one of the three that has continued, was expanded from five to 50 states by the Basic Pilot Program Extension and Expansion Act of 2003, and in Fall 2005 included 3,600 employers (the US has 8.4 million employers) and 22,000 work sites.
To participate, employers complete a Memorandum of Understanding and obtain a login name and password. In FY04, they submitted data on 757,000 new hires to the Social Security database, up from 613,000 in FY03. About 75 percent were immediately confirmed to be employment-authorized, and only 208 were found to be definitely unauthorized. Of those that triggered questions, 70 percent were quickly found to be employment-authorized, and another 10 percent were cleared after further checking.
The major verification problem involves work-authorized non-US citizens. Only half are verified to work by the automated Social Security database because its databases are not up to date. Those rejected must have their data sent to USCIS, which also does not have continuously updated databases. Most of those who persist are found to be employment-authorized. By contrast, unauthorized workers tend to quit, so employers do not resubmit their data.
The major impact of Basic Pilot is not found in submitted data. Instead, when applicants learn that their data will be submitted for verification, they do not apply or withdraw their applications.
I have been unable to find, so far, any site that provides the worksite arrest numbers for ‘98 through ‘02. Except for this one lone AP report from December of ‘05 which presents numbers for ‘99 and ‘03:
A Government Accountability Office report in August found worksite arrests were down from 2,849 in 1999 to 445 in 2003. In 1999, 417 civil notices of intent to fine employers for hiring illegal workers were issued, not counting civil settlements; in 2003, there were just four.
Well, now, just hang a minute there Johnny O! The drop in worksite arrests from ‘97 to ‘99 is already on the order of 80+%! It would seem Dubya's numbers weren't in freefall from the heady Clintonian numbers of '97 but that, rather, the worksite arrest numbers were in pretty significant freefall by '99. Why did worksite arrests of illegal alien workers fall of the cliff like that?
There are a some hints. One is that the Big Boys were out of the game. INS couldn’t do 1,000-1,500 raids and net 12,000-18,000 illegals anymore. Have a look at the chart at the top of the AP report I pointed to above. Also have a look at the DoJ report I linked to - it ends with this little tidbit:
Even if the illegal alien work force in the U.S. were to remain static at 2 million and INS were to meet its removal targets, INS worksite removals would equal less then 0.1 percent of the illegal alien work force and could be expected to have a statistically insignificant effect on the remaining work force. Consequently, we believe that a large illegal immigrant work force is likely to continue to be available to sweatshop operators for the foreseeable future.
INS seems be saying, as far back as that late ‘96 report, that they felt the worksite arrests program was leading nowhere fast.
I apologize for losing track of the link but somewhere in the DoJ/INS website I noticed, but didn’t capture and cannot find again, some report (I’m nearly certain it was from the late ’90s) recommending that they switch from an “inspection” methodology (dropping in on worksites and looking for illegals) to a “leads” methodology (acting upon tips about worksites with illegals).
That would make some sense. The old fishing grounds (the Big Boys) were no longer producing and they were probably spinning their wheels trying to run around inspecting the little guys who, even when busted, weren’t paying the fines - they just go belly up, disappear, and re-emerge somewhere else a few months later and they believed it was all for naught anyway. The little employers, the “sweatshops” in INS parlance, was where the illegals were.
O'Sullivan would have us believe that it was a “dramatic relaxation in enforcement” and seems to want to pin it on the Bush administration. What seems to be more likely as an explanation is that, by ‘98 the big fishing grounds were fished out and nobody was giving the INS more boats and fishermen to go searching out new fishing grounds and they switched to a policy of sending their resources out based on calls telling them where the fishing might be hot at the moment.
But why a continuing drop and even though the “Bush Drop” was not the 97% Sullivan would have us believe, it still seems it might be rather large. After all, we were getting nearly 3,000 in ‘99 but not even 500 by ‘03. I haven’t yet found numbers for ‘00-’02, but given the drop off the cliff between ‘97 and ‘99 we might reasonably speculate that the numbers didn’t rise in ‘00 and, since the INS seems to have lost the good fishing spots and, therefore, didn’t find fishing nearly as profitable, the numbers probably fell ‘99 - ‘00 at least a little.
But what happened between ‘01 and ‘03? Sullivan seems to want us to believe that the government, under the Bush administration, stopped enforcing the immigration laws "even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime".Maybe I'm way too duped or forgiving but it seems to me that since 9/11/01 federal resources have had some jobs to do that were arguably higher priority than tracking down insulation installers, roofers, and motel cleaning ladies. It seems pretty clear that, under the Bush administration, not enough has been done to either secure the border or to deal with the rapidly rising number of illegal aliens. I believe O'Sullivan was being disingenuous when he chose thenumber of "worksite arrests" as the tool with which to flog Dubya. It seems that worksite arrests may have fallen off the cliff long before Dubya stepped up to bat and, perhaps, there was understandable reasons for that. I have not doubt he knows full well he was disingenous.
To pretend that this immigration mess all happened on Bush’s watch and that nothing else of arguably higher priority has happened on Bush’s watch is disappointing coming from Sullivan. Hillary… Kerry… Krugman… Dowd… Ivins… that ilk one can understand.
O'Sullivan I expect more from.