Today’s Dallas Morning News has a thought-provoking editorial about the consequences of a new proposal to crack down on employers of illegal aliens. What would happen if 8,000,000 workers lost their jobs suddenly? Here’s the editorial: 

Critics of comprehensive immigration reform often insist that simply enforcing the laws we already have would go a long way toward solving our growing illegal immigration problem.

We don’t entirely disagree. We do believe strongly that a national strategy should include more than a fence along the Mexican border and deporting every person without papers, but who can be against enforcing current law?

So we were pleased to hear that the Department of Homeland Security intends to crack down on employers who hire workers here illegally with tougher rules that require firing anyone using false Social Security numbers to get work. Backing that policy will be more raids of suspect job sites.

The old employer excuse: “Hey, they had papers.”

The feds’ new rejoinder: “Hey, you should have known better. We sent you a no-match letter.”

In short, if the Social Security Administration can’t connect a number filed with it to a real identity, employers will be notified by mail. Instead of ignoring these notices, as often happened in the past, or just passing them along to the worker to deal with, employers will have 90 days to resolve discrepancies. If they can’t, they must fire the worker or face a $10,000 fine per illegal immigrant.

“There are not going to be any more excuses for employers,” said Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, “and there will be serious consequences for those that choose to blatantly ignore the law.”

Fair enough.

But let’s also be clear about the consequences. The feds say they expect to send out 140,000 no-match letters this year, covering more than 8 million workers. We seriously doubt employers will risk $10,000 fines for the vast majority of them.

That means untold numbers of workers out of jobs. Some will go home. Others with spouses or kids in school might roll the dice and try to use those same forged documents to find another job. In the most desperate circumstances, some may even turn to crime to survive.

Imagine for a moment the increased strain this will place on our social service network – food banks, emergency health care and our already overstuffed jails. This is where “too bad for them” falls apart as a response. Everyone who pays taxes will foot the bill.

This is one reason we continue to push Congress to renew the immigration debate. A biometric ID card – close to impossible to forge – was one excellent idea that got washed away in anti-reform tide, as did a realistic guest worker program that would have given hundreds of thousands of needed workers a way to work within the law.

Targeting employers makes sense, as long as we realize who will pay the price.