Often, when people perceive a problem, their first instinct is to create a new law. Among government officials, that reaction is generally automatic. Legislators and regulators score their value by the number of laws and regulations they pass. The fact that their new rules have myriad unintended consequences and allow the bureaucrats to exert more control over everyone else — well, we’re just responding to our constituents.
Oyster Bay is a town in New York that has a "crisis": Latino day-laborers on its streets soliciting work. I don’t know whether these immigrants are legal or illegal, but there are customers for their services. However, some residents complained about the crowds of day-laborers, so town leaders passed laws to “solve” their problem.
First came the anti-loitering decrees, then legislation to punish employers and landlords who hire or house immigrants. Now,... a law that makes even waving one’s hand punishable by a $250 fine.
Workers recently protested, saying it's a law against "waving while Latino." The Town Supervisor responded:
“Maybe I’m living in a fool’s paradise, but I believe the day will come when people say, ‘Son of a gun, he was right about this.’ ”
I won’t hold my breath. Riverside, NJ tried solving its day-laborer problem in 2006, penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant. The result?
The local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.
A year later, the town repealed the law.