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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Security threats: frogs, farms, polluters and immigrants


Today the Federal government decided to file suit against my home state of Illinois because the legislature had the impudence to try to protect our large immigrant community from the department of Homeland Security's political posturing (see the L.A. Times story U.S. sues Illinois over immigration law). In August, llinois enacted a law prohibiting state businesses from using E-Verify, the Fed's system for checking the citizenship of prospective employees, until DHS fixes its flawed data.

Businesses enrolled in E-Verify are required to fire any employees whose citizenship status isn't resolved within 8 business days. Because the system's databases contain significant inaccuracies, technical delays could lead to loss of jobs for US citizens as well as undocumented workers.

Michael Chertoff, who heads DHS, has declared himself the agency's new sheriff with a mission of corralling the black-hatted cynicism that he believes characterizes Americans' attitudes toward immigration policy. The tough talk is just a rhetorical sleight of hand meant to throw us off the path of the real villainy taking place in our country. It's the Bush administration's latest attempt to use the poor and disenfranchised immigrant as a war-on-terror straw man.

Who poses the bigger threat to our safety and well being: a hard working immigrant trying to make his or her way in our country, or the greedy corporations who take advantage of lax environmental law enforcement to pollute our land, air and water? I think most Americans would recognize the latter grouping as the more dangerous scofflaws, but cracking down on them would mean risking the administration's political base.

As I've written about previously, the Feds were more than willing to turn a blind eye to the circumvention of EPA regulations by British Petroleum, which was needed to expand their Indiana refinery (see B(ig) P(olluter) of Lake Michigan: A few jobs, a lot of harm). No administration tough guy stood up to challenge an action that threatened to further contaminate one of our country's largest sources of fresh water.

Nor are they likely to act on the new scientific evidence that the spike in frog deformities is being caused by runoff from industrial farming practices (see the Reuters story Frog deformities blamed on farm and ranch runoff). Asking our politicians to make the connection between pollution, frogs and the implications on human health would require far too much thought on their part. It's much easier to search out targets for the scapegoating of our social ills.

Maybe a mass exodus of frogs toward the U.S. border would get their attention. We'll have to build a wall to keep the slimy little green traitors from getting out. Oh wait, we're already doing that.
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