Immigration racket

July 31, 2005

AN IDAHO county commissioner recently sued several agricultural companies, accusing them of racketeering for hiring illegal immigrants. New Hampshire police use trespassing laws to "intercept" undocumented immigrants. The Minutemen Project, a civilian undertaking of self-proclaimed border-watchers, is being enlisted in towns around the country.

In ways big and small, private citizens, local governments and state law enforcement agencies are expressing frustration with the Bush administration and Congress for failing to reform the immigration system and control the nation's borders.

In the most recent example, Robert Vasquez, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and a politically ambitious commissioner in Canyon County, near Boise, used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to go after four agriculture companies. He also billed the Mexican government for more than $2 million, a silly publicity stunt that nonetheless resonated with his supporters.

In 1996, Congress expanded the RICO law to include violations of federal immigration law, leaving entities that profit from illegal immigration criminally and civilly liable. Mr. Vasquez's legal strategy is no way to address the country's broader illegal immigration problem, but his dissatisfaction with congressional inaction is clearly shared by other state and local lawmakers.

Immigration reform should be a priority when Congress returns from its August recess. The country needs a uniform federal immigration policy, not a free-for-all of local immigration-control laws.

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