MAY 10, 2006
Despite existing laws that already mandate it, a Senate proposal that would require employers to check Social Security numbers and the immigration status of all hires is making headlines as if it were an innovative and grandiose solution to the illegal immigration problem.
U.S. employers are already supposed to hire only people who are in the country legally. The problem is that the law is seldom enforced, despite the fact that the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration have plenty of evidence of immigration fraud in the U.S. workforce. Both these agencies absurdly refuse to provide this information on illegal immigrants because of privacy laws.
Perhaps that is why the newly crafted Senate legislation would allow the Department of Homeland Security “limited” access to those readily available IRS and Social Security databases which contain evidence of payrolls that include illegal immigrants.
The databases have the names and addresses of millions of illegal aliens using bogus Social Security numbers, their wage records and identities of those who hire them. After all, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 established broad powers for federal agencies to gather and share information.
Without scrutiny it is unlikely that employers will abide by any law relating to this issue. When Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it was up to employers to ensure that they hired only legal workers. In other words, the very companies benefiting from low-wage, undocumented workers (with no rights or benefits) had to police themselves. Perhaps the government can conduct a study that sheds some insight into why that plan was so ineffective.
Under the new Senate proposal, employers caught hiring illegal immigrants could be fined up to $20,000 per unauthorized worker and repeat offenders could do jail time. Not surprisingly, pro-immigration advocates have labeled the legislation discriminatory with one group calling it the “no-work list” by comparing it with the no-fly list created to screen airline passengers after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
One editorial writer for the Hartford Courant offers a different solution in an op-ed piece published by the paper today. David Medina seriously suggests there be no immigration reform because cheap illegal immigrant labor is so widespread and many Americans profit from it, not just employers paying slave wages. The article, however, fails to address the very important issue of Homeland Security.
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