Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Was Breivik inevitable?

We once again read that his view of immigrants is common in Norwegian society but has little organized expression

Norway has very little in the way of nationalist and neo-Nazi movements compared to other countries in Europe, and even neighboring Sweden and Denmark, said Magnus Norell, an expert on terrorism at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. “Right wing extremism in Norway is virtually non-existent. If you had asked me where this might have happened a week ago, Norway would have been at the bottom of our list of potential targets, because it just doesn’t exist in Norway,” said Norell.

Nonetheless Norway has long been undergoing a heated discussion of its policy of multiculturalism and the ramifications of mass immigration into the country. The popularity of the Progress Party, which now occupies the second place in the country’s congress, is linked to the rising tide of immigrants in Oslo and a reaction it by many Norwegians.

For Breivik, the group turned out to be too liberal, and ultimately his frustration against the party partially fueled his violent attack against the government district and Utoya, a youth camp that hosted many of the nation’s future political leaders, on Friday.

Norway’s problems with multiculturalism date back into the 1980s, when refugees and students came in droves to the country in part due to a lax immigration policy. The Muslim population in the country as a whole have grown modestly, making up around three percent of the country’s population. But in Oslo, the number is more than double that and many Muslims are grouped together in poorer districts, which some cite as evidence that the goal of creating a multicultural society in Norway has failed.

“His views concerning immigration and Muslims and the multicultural society, they’re not fringe views. It isn’t that the police were not looking hard enough, it’s simply that his publically stated views were similar to many other people’s,” said Norell.

Others say that Norwegian society’s stance has been creeping to the right since the beginning of the anti-immigration debate in the country, and what were once considered extreme views are now considered mainstream.

“What is scary about this is that if you look past this act of extreme terror and the pain that this man has inflicted on so many lives in Norway, you see that his politics are no longer that extreme for Norway, and that is dangerous,” said Aslak Sira Myhre, a liberal commentator and former politician.

Myhre said that the tragedy may lead to a severe reduction of anti-immigration rhetoric in Norwegian politics in the short term. “As a society, we have crossed the line,” he said. “Hopefully this tragedy will be useful in that for some time it will become impossible in Norway to use the sort of rhetoric that has become more and more widespread in the past decades.”

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States' Rights Key to Immigration Control

One of the most tired clich├ęs of the immigration debate is that “immigrants do the jobs Americans won’t do.” With 16 million Americans out of work, this justification for not enforcing our immigration laws rings hollower than ever.

There are an estimated 7-8 million illegal aliens in the workforce. Virtually all of them are in unskilled sectors such as agriculture, food service and preparation, and construction; which also have extremely high levels of native born unemployment.

Freeing up those jobs for Americans should be common sense during a recession.

Hiring illegal aliens is already a crime under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, but neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama enforced this law. Part of the problem is that it is easy for “undocumented” immigrants to get fake documents. Under the current system, an honest employer may be duped into hiring or an illegal, while unscrupulous businesses can intentionally look the other way and plead ignorance if they get caught.

In 1996, Congress created the E-Verify program to help close this loophole. E-Verify is an electronic system that allows an employer to enter the social security or alien registration number of a potential employee. This gets checked against a government database to confirm whether an employee is here legally within minutes. When I served in Congress I cosponsored a number of pieces of legislation to mandate E-Verify nationwide.

These bills never made it through Congress, so states and localities began to do the job the federal government wouldn’t do. In 2006, Hazleton, PA, under the leadership of their mayor Lou Barletta, passed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. The next year, Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Worker Act (LAWA.) Following Arizona’s lead, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, and many other states passed their own E-Verify laws.

Predictably, the ACLU sued Hazleton and the Chamber of Commerce sued Arizona on the grounds that states were preempted from enforcing immigration law.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that LAWA was constitutional in Chamber of Commerce vs. Whiting. The next week, they upheld the Hazleton law. This opens the door for even more states to pass E-Verify laws when they go back in session.

In the wake of all this momentum in favor of state laws and E-Verify, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the H.R. 2164, The Legal Workforce Act in June. On the surface, the Legal Workforce Act is a great bill. It requires E-Verify for all new hires and improves the system to prevent identity theft. Unfortunately, the bill includes a preemption provision that will prevent States and localities from enforcing employer sanctions on illegal immigration unless the federal government acts first. This, in effect, will completely wipe out our victory in the Supreme Court.

By including the preemption section, Rep. Smith has won the support of the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups who lobbied against every previous piece of immigration control legislation because it restricts their supply of cheap labor.

However, he has lost the support of some conservatives. Lou Barletta, who is now a freshman Congressman (R-PA), opposes the bill. He claims, “If this bill becomes law, states and municipalities will be powerless without the federal government acting first. Waiting for the federal government to enforce its own immigration laws is how we got into this mess in the first place.”

Rep. Barletta is right. While E-Verify is an excellent program, if the federal government was serious about enforcing the laws on the book, it probably would not be necessary. At the same time, nothing will be accomplished by passing an E-Verify law if the federal government won’t enforce it. There are already states and localities enforcing the law, and taking away their right in exchange for the hope the federal government will act is a risky bargain.

As Arizona Senate President and SB 1070 author Russell Pearce wrote in a column for the Poltico, “It all boils down to one question: Whom do you trust to enforce the law: Obama or Arizona?” Rep. Barletta and Sen. Pearce are not alone in their concern over the Legal Workforce Act. Many conservative and immigration control leaders like Kris Kobach, Bay Buchanan, Phyllis Schlafly, and Tom Tancredo say the bill needs to be amended.

In a column in Townhall.com, Lamar Smith dismisses the concerns over states’ rights because “although the Legal Workforce Act preempts state E-Verify laws, it grants states and localities the right to issue or rescind business licenses based on the requirement that the employer use E-Verify as directed by federal law.” This misses the point. The problem is that it is unlikely that federal government will enforce the law. Allowing states to act only act after the federal government sanctions a business fails to address this concern.

Rep. Smith also argues that blue states with high illegal populations like New York and California are unlikely to pass statewide E-Verify laws, so unless we pass a nationwide law there would be nothing to keep illegals from getting jobs in those states. This may be true, but it once again assumes that the federal government will enforce the law at all. It also assumes we can’t pass an E-Verify bill without pre-emption.

As he notes in his column, a Rasmussen poll showed that 82% of Americans want mandatory E-Verify. With that level of support, why should we water down the bill?

I am not criticizing the preemption language to disparage Lamar Smith who I know is genuinely concerned about fighting illegal immigration. However, it is a huge mistake to sacrifice States’ Rights on immigration control in exchange for the slim possibility that the Obama administration will enforce our laws.

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