Sunday, January 10, 2010

Free the pimps

Senator Scott Brown sees himself another hot button to politically push —"illegal immigration." So it is we have the news, now in the last days before the special senate election, that he has filed legislation that would bar the protections of our state's wage laws to workers without legal status. Protecting workers' rights to legally limited work days and wages that are humane and livable is one thing, doing that in such a way that we might protect "illegals" —well, that's another in Senator Scott Brown's book.

Brown makes no bones about the political stunt nature of the legislation he has filed. It's not about the problem of illegal immigration. Make no mistake. It's about his political rival. As WBUR reports it:

"... [A]ttorney general, Martha Coakley has aggressively enforced laws protecting workers’ wages. Before the campaign, her office often announced settlements with companies she sued for allegedly violating prevailing wage laws or avoiding payroll taxes. Coakley represented everyone, including illegal immigrants."

Brown sees here an opening. As he understands and explains it all in a telephone interview, the Attorney General's job is to "enforce the laws of the state and to protect citizens here legally and the people who are here with the appropriate immigration status" —the implication being that to enforce the laws of the state one should demur when it comes to protecting citizens without legal presence —that law enforcement really ought to be selective in who it chooses to protect... Really.

I'll just note that at the one criminal trial I ever attended —it was as a juror —the victim was without question of the criminal element sort, but as I recall 'The People' still somehow saw some merit in prosecuting the crime.

And I guess I'm glad Scott Brown is not running for Attorney General.

Honest people can disagree about the best ways to address the illegal immigration problem directly —or even symbolically. There's some honest disagreement about the principles involved —whether certain measures send the right message to lawless behavior. But to write law specifically excluding the protection of the law? Doesn't that just flaunt the whole notion of the immigration debate as being about the principle of... law? Doesn't the supposed debate then descend to nothing more than exploitation of basic bigoted resentment?

If there is a single aspect of illegal immigration that most can agree upon, it is that would-be workers —illegal workers are drawn here by illegal hiring. Illegals become an attractive source of cheap exploitable labor precisely because they live along a dangerous line where seeking recourse could also send them home. Law that would exclude illegal workers the protection of the law from illegal employers—and calling that a move against illegal immigration— I see it as about the same as offering amnesty to pimps and calling it a crack down on prostitution (—thought being they do help keep the gals in line).

But then again Senator Brown didn't file this thinking it was real world legislation. The good senator from Wrentham knows better than that. This is only more prop imagery and nothing more —election season theatrics —reason to once again wonder what kind of world it is Scott Brown lives in. Does he really see the State Senate as only a set stage for his political stunt pseudo-legislation?

Should we assume he would treat the national stage with any more respect?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I agree with Scott Brown that the duty of the AG's office is to curtail illegal immigration, not protect the wages of illegal immigrant workers. We need to stop creating incentives for illegal immigrants to come here. No other country in the world is as lax as the US is in this regard. And it's hurting working class people here. If Coakley wants to take it to the employers who hire illegals, that's great. But I want my tax dollars going towards reducing illegal immigration, not protecting people who have broken the law.

Tom Driscoll, Profiled! said...

Respectfully, Mr. Anonymous, I don't think you're reconciling yourself with reality if you think you're somehow curtailing illegal immigration by leaving the folks who hire them illegally just that much less accountable. Fixing illegal immigration, if it's ever going to happen, is going to have to involve setting enforceable standards and actually enforcing them, not setting up some empty symbols of disapproval while only enabling the core offense.