I generally avoid messed-up-bureaucracy (MUB) stories because
1) There are just too many MUBs; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel,
2) Some MUB problems derive from sheer size–dealing with millions and billions of anything increases the possibility of error– so while a MUB can cause us grief, the fact that they screw up is not really surprising. Related to that, staffing a huge MUB necessarily means you cannot rely on the best and brightest at every post, even when the tasks to be accomplished are of the greatest importance, because there simply are not enough of the best and brightest to go around.
Is anyone really shocked to learn that many of the airport security workers hired over the past few years don’t resemble Rhodes Scholars, or to notice that, despite their crucial tasks, many of them operate like lethargic parking lot attendants?
That said, certain MUB stories cry out for attention–and some make us cry, or at least laugh to keep from crying. Here are two that deal with the immigration problem, covering the whole waterfront of opinion on the issue. The fact that both pieces appeared virtually on the same day just adds a layer of sad irony.
First, let’s assume that you believe America is and always should be the immigration lifeboat of the world–open borders, path to citizenship, etc. So what happened over the past year, as Congress failed to act on immigration and applications for citizenship surged? The system broke down, so thousands of people who want to play by the rules, who stood in line and did it right, may have to wait another 18 months before their papers hit a bureaucrat’s desk. Many of these people would love to become citizens in time to vote next November. We’ll see. A New York Times editorial on the debacle is here.
But what about the other side? What about the growing numbers of people who would like to see immigration laws enforced, if only because they are, well, laws? So sorry. In the wake of Congress’s immigration failure, cities like Irving, Texas had been working with the federal Criminal Alien Program to report illegal immigrants who were in police custody. Immigration officials could then deport the criminal aliens. It was working so well that numerous other cities wanted to sign up.
But. . . the system broke down. Again. The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement MUB announced that it simply wasn’t set up to actually enforce these laws, so it ordered agents to go back to the old “catch and release” rule. Bottom line: We know you broke the law. We know the police have you. But they can just let you go. Bye. For more, see the Dallas Morning News editorial here.
Whatever you think we should be doing about this complex crisis–throw open the doors, or nail them shut–this ain’t it. We need to do better, but I fear that the nature of MUBs makes improvement the rare exception, not the rule.