New crack down on illegal workers: what it means.

A new get tough policy is to be launched. In this posting, I am addressing three questions: What is the new program? – it aims to scare and punish a lot of employers. Which employers are affected? A huge number in some industries. What are the motivating politics behind it? The White House decided to give up on immigration reform and check in with the conservatives.
The Washington Post reported the new policy on 8/10:
The federal government today announced a new plan to crack down on illegal immigrants and their employers using existing laws, while also streamlining current guest worker programs.
Under the plan, the government will step up interior enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws and strengthen a program aimed at identifying illegal-immigrant workers who use false documents to gain employment. The effort involves bolstering an electronic system to verify eligibility for employment and increasing penalties for employers who deliberately hire illegal workers.
“Obviously there are employers who deliberately violate the law, and we will come down on them like a ton of bricks,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at a news conference to announce the new measures.
Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, appearing alongside Chertoff at the news conference, said the package of administrative reforms would “sharpen the tools we have” against illegal immigration while also helping employers who have legitimate needs for foreign workers. He said the government will overhaul regulations that implement existing guest worker programs for agricultural and other seasonal employees to make the programs more “workable.” The administration will also study possible administrative changes to visa programs for highly skilled workers, he said.
Every employer is exposed: Any in which mismatches exceed 0.5% of the workforce. This means in effect that the entire home residential construction, agricultural, landscaping and hospitality industries are under siege, because each of these probably has at least 10% of their workforces are illegal.
The NY Times takes another shot at this:
Employers in low-wage industries were critical but guarded, reluctant to admit openly that they hire illegal immigrants. Randel K. Johnson, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the measures were “one more kick in the pants” for meat-packing, construction and health care companies that employ immigrant workers in unskilled jobs.
Farmers were less shy, saying at least 70 percent of farmworkers are illegal immigrants.
Ms. Torrey, the New York farmer, and other growers expressed their distress to White House and Homeland Security Department officials during a conference call with the National Council of Agricultural Employers, arranged by the administration to explain the new plan. Ms. Torrey warned that dairy cows would die from lack of milking if New York farmers had to fire immigrant dairy workers.
Luawanna Hallstrom, a tomato grower in Oceanside, Calif., who also participated in the conference call, called the measures “a train wreck.”
The politics – David Brooks wrote a column a few days about Mitt Romney’s candidancy. I think that Romney’s focus on conservative ideology in contrast to efficiency and excellence in administration (his business track record) is a clue what the Bush Administration wants from this policy shift from accommodation with the goal of legislative reform to shoring up chances of keeping the White House Republican in 2008.
Brooks writes:
This electorate has changed, even in the past 10 years. As a study by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates demonstrates, Republicans are more conservative than even a decade ago. Seventy-one percent are self-declared conservatives, compared to 55 percent in 1997. Republicans are much older. Forty-one percent of Republicans are over 55, compared to 28 percent a decade ago.
Republicans are also much less economics-oriented. A decade ago, the party had thriving deficit hawk and supply-side factions. Now the thriving groups, as the study indicates, are organized around issues like immigration, terrorism and stem cell research.