SUPPOSE YOU LEARN that a New England manufacturer is exploiting its employees, many of them illegal immigrants, with wretched working conditions. It fines them for talking on the job, refuses to pay overtime, and penalizes them for bathroom breaks of more than two minutes, all in addition to low wages, long hours, and squalid facilities. What do you do?And the employers? Fined, and released on bail. The factory is open for business the next day.
Well, if you're the United States government, you send armed agents to haul the workers off in shackles to a military base 100 miles away, then fly scores of them more than 2,000 miles to a holding pen in Texas. You provide the frightened detainees with little information and no access to lawyers. You act so rashly that many of those you seize are separated from their children and can't get word to spouses or babysitters. You display such ineptitude, in fact, that babies end up in the hospital, dehydrated, after their nursing mothers are taken away.
Something stinks mightily, doesn't it?
If tens of millions of drivers consistently break the interstate speed limit, do we assume that they are all criminals who should lose their licenses and be banned from the highways? No: A more plausible explanation is that the speed limit is too low for safe highway driving and ought to be raised. By the same token, if hundreds of thousands of immigrants come here illegally each year, is it realistic to conclude that we have a massive crime problem for which a ferocious crackdown is the only solution? Perhaps it is the case instead that America's immigration quotas are simply too low for the world's most dynamic economy. And perhaps the persistent influx of industrious workers is not a plague to be cursed, but a blessing to be better managed.