Tag Archives: E-verify

Groups fight “more of the same” on immigration


Last week, amidst growing frustration from immigrant rights groups and advocates, folks from FIRM groups in New York (NYIC) and Los Angeles (CHIRLA) took to the streets to protest the expansion of Bush-style immigration policies and legislation. While many of our groups (FIRM included) looked to the Obama presidency as a “New Day” for immigration, the reality of recent weeks has worn patience thin. The New York Times ran a story this week, highlighting the growing discontent and impatience.

First, there was the expansion of E-verify – a fatally flawed electronic verification system that threatens not only American workers but immigrants caught up in the endlessly bureaucratic immigration system. Then, there was the expansion of the 287g program – which gives local law enforcement the ability to enforce federal immigration law and is rife with racial profiling and abuse of power.

To be frank, we were promised a “new day” and we feel like we are seeing more of the same.

“We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way,” Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview.

There is no right way to expand flawed systems. They are just that; flawed. Of course enforcement has to be a part of a Comprehensive Immigration Package, but it should not be expanded outside of an entire overhaul of legislation. As Katy Vargas at ImmPolitic blog wrote:

There is a desperate need for broader oversight of our immigration policies. Escalating enforcement without reforming our immigration system comprehensively only exacerbates the problem and it will not render long-lasting solutions to our immigration chaos.

Last week, America’s Voice launched the “Enough” campaign, calling on the Department of Homeland Security to push for Comprehensive immigration reform, not an expansion of flawed and abusive programs. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, do it NOW. (Sign petition here)

President Obama promised a new day for immigration policy in America, but we have yet to see sufficient change coming from DHS. Rather than overhaul misguided Bush-era immigration enforcement strategies, DHS continues to pursue policies that have done little, if anything, to solve the crisis of illegal immigration.

These policies continue to increase fear in our communities and undermine public safety at a time when the nation is waiting to hear your plans for advancing real, comprehensive immigration reform.

While, on a personal level, I have been very disappointed with the recent moves from the administration (especially the expansion of 287g), I still have faith that the President is ready and willing to bring sensible solutions to the table to help fix our broken immigration system. I firmly believe that we need to keep up the pressure and make our voices heard in order to push for this. Obama (and the United States for that matter) can’t afford to not succeed on this issue.

E-verify Amendment Blocked in Senate

Over the weekend an attempt to add an E-verify amendment to the Stimulus bill in the Senate was thankfully blocked. The Wall Street Journal had an opinion piece explaining why, outside of immigration issues, E-verify would be harmful to the Stimulus bill.

Weekend negotiations over the Senate stimulus bill followed another dismal jobs report on Friday. So we’re happy to report that negotiators so far have rejected a troublesome amendment that would require any business receiving stimulus funds to enroll in E-Verify, a government program for determining work eligibility. The last thing employers need now is more bureaucratic red tape.

E-Verify, which is currently voluntary, is a Web-based pilot program that allows employers to check the legal status of employees by matching their name and Social Security number against databases maintained by the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security. Proponents tout E-Verify as a way to curb the hiring of illegal aliens. But the program is plagued by serious problems that include misidentifying U.S. citizens as not authorized for employment.

…Not to mention the extra costs to businesses who are forced to enroll in the program.

ACTION: Stimulus Bill Includes E-verify Requirement

The House Appropriations Committee made a serious mistake when it approved an amendment to the stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) that would require all businesses and other public or private “entities” that contract to receive money from the stimulus package to use the flawed federal Basic Pilot/E-Verify program.  This will not only delay use of stimulus funds, but will hurt millions of workers.  It should be stripped from the bill.

The E-Verify provision in the stimulus will:
•    Harm workers who are either falsely denied work or are targeted by employers abusing the E-verify program;
•    Create substantial new burdens for businesses, especially small businesses, at precisely the wrong time;
•    Send the wrong signal to new voters that the Congress prefers to play politics by enacting symbolic and ineffective immigration “enforcement” measures over serious and effective economic stimulus or serious immigration reform.

ACTION NEEDED

1.    Call Speaker Nancy Pelosi (head of Democratic Leadership) at 202-225-0100.

2.    Call Chairman Obey (chair of the House Appropriations committee) at 202-225-3365.

3.    Call Democrats who sit on the appropriations committee if you live in their state.

4.    Tell them:
•    You are extremely disappointed that the E-Verify requirement was included on the Stimulus and you want the provision stripped from the bill.
•    Including E-verify in the stimulus package completely undercuts the purpose of the bill and will only be counterproductive for American business, workers and the economy.
•    Real solutions to our economic problems and immigration reform should be approached seriously and separately.
•    The flawed E-Verify program’s database errors will wrongly workers their jobs.

FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform) just sent out an alert to its very active network to call committee members in support of this provision.  We need to counter their calls.

New “no-match” Rule is Unwelcome

Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security released a final administrative rule regarding “no-match” letters. “No-match” letters are sent as a result of employers using the e-verify system to confirm that employees are eligilbe to work. If an employee’s social security number shows up with “no-match” a letter is sent to the employer.

The system has been widely criticized because of errors, inaccurate databases and the high probabilty of human mistakes that lead to loss of jobs for eligible workers. Now, during a time of intense economic crisis, the administration has taken more steps that endanger workers.

Ali Noorani from the National Immigration Forum has a great post on this new development:

Given our country’s rapidly unraveling economy, measures that further weaken businesses and threaten the economic security of our nation and of legitimate workers – native and immigrant worker alike – are bizarre.

The Administration was under no legal obligation to issue these regulations. In fact, the initial rules were contested in court.

Recent news reports and Congressional hearings have uncovered scandals in the immigration enforcement agency’s handling of its charges, pointing to the need for greater accountability. Instead, both Congress and the administration are loosening the reins—Congress, by giving ICE buckets and buckets of new taxpayer dollars, and now the administration, by finalizing a policy that will be hazardous to our economic health and by dragging the Social Security Administration into the fray.

It is clear the Bush administration is determined to continue tightening the screws on immigrants with new deportation-only initiatives, using its last few months in office to put regulations in place that will make it that much more difficult for a new administration to tackle immigration in a straightforward and reasonable way.

We need reasonable and sensible solutions, not more immigrant scapegoating that puts all Americans at risk!

Question: Can we build the Border Wall without the help of those we are trying to keep out?

I know that this question seems almost laughable, the punchline of a bad joke. But it is a very real question on the minds of those attempting to complete the 670 miles of fencing along our nation’s southwest border.

Asked whether a border wall could be built on deadline without illegal workers, Vaughan, with the general contractors group, told the Brownsville Herald in June: “It’s probably borderline impossible to be honest with you.”

In the Rio Grande valley, where work on 70 miles of the wall began last month, this question is even more pressing.

Valley longtimers have cracked wise about the barriers, saying they not only won’t thwart illegal immigrants intent on entering the country but that illegal labor will probably help build them. An estimated 8 million illegal immigrants already work in the U.S., and according to a Pew Hispanic Center report, about 1 in 5 were in the construction industry in 2006.

Federal officials say they have taken steps to ensure only legal workers build the fence that Congress conceived in 2006 in the name of national security. They include:

• In June, President Bush ordered all federal contractors to participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s electronic system for verifying the Social Security numbers of their workers.

This “electronic system” is also known as E-verify, which is widely known to be a flawed and ineffective program. In a statement released yesterday, the US Chamber of Commerce commented on the E-verify system, saying, “[W]hile the Chamber understands that the federal government and employers have a compelling interest in seeing that every tool is made available to employers to ensure a legal workforce, the Proposed Rule is misguided, premature, and unwarranted.”

So, this first step to ensure contractors only use “legal” labor seems highly ineffective.

Lets look at the next steps:

• Private companies wanting a piece of the $1.2 billion fence-building project face heavy scrutiny; before they can even join a pool to bid on federal contracts, they must agree to a long list of terms, including that they will hire only legal workers.

Wait, so if they say they will only hire “legal” workers, then they obviously mean it, right? Is that the “heavy scrutiny” they will face?

• Contractors found using illegal labor face legal repercussions, said Homeland Security spokesman Barry Morrissey. “We expect contractors to uphold these agreements,” Morrissey said.

In 2006, a contractor in Southern California agreed to pay nearly $5 million in fines for hiring unauthorized immigrants to build millions of dollars’ worth of fencing, work that included some of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico. So, it seems like these companies are willing to take the hit of “legal repercussoins” if they can continue to exploit unauthorized immigrants for cheap labor.

So, what does this all mean? I believe that the border wall project speaks to the entirety of the immigration debate. Not only do most experts agree that a wall will be ineffective, but we can’t even ensure that we could complete the project without using the hands of those we wish to keep out. In short, our immigration system is broken and only just and humane comprehensive immigration reform is going to fix it. A wall is merely a band-aid, albeit a costly one, on the gaping wound that is our current policy.

Nebraska: Grassroots Leaders in Training

On August 2nd and 3rd, a group of 15 Nebraska grassroots leaders participated in their first-ever Democracy School program. Democracy Schools, which are a project of FIRM, aim to develop basic leadership skills among new grassroots immigrant leaders across the nation.

Two participants came from Fremont, Nebraska, fresh off of the defeat of a divisive anti-immigrant measure. Their efforts directly contributed to the defeat of the hotly debated bill, which would have required employers to use the flawed E-verify system when hiring new employees.

In the wake of the struggle to kill the bill, participants shared their experience and concerns with the other students of the Democracy School. They want to continue to build Fremont’s future but are concerned with the rising divide over the issue of immigration that they witnessed in their small town. Both felt hopeful about the future of the small town, however, saying that Fremont’s mayor had taken a step in the right direction by voting against the bill.   

Democracy Schools will continue to take place in different parts of the country and for more information, please contact Mayron Payes at mpayes@communitychange.org.

 

Mayron Payes is a Community Organizer and Trainer with FIRM.

Pictures: Gloria Sarmiento, Nebraska Appleseed.

State and Local Round-up

  • North Carolina: The arrest of a librarian in Alamanc county is drawing criticism. There is speculation that local law enforcement is combing through medical records at the Alamance Health Department in order to crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

  • Nebraska: After hours of tense debate, Fremont’s city council votes down and anti-migrant bill. The proposal would have required contractors and employers who got licenses, permits or loans from the city to participate in the E-verify program to electronically verify a job applicant’s immigration status.
  • California: California may become the latest of several states to put restrictions on an online system that attempts to verify whether a job applicant can work in the U.S.

NYTimes: Pushing Back on Immigration

An article in the NY Times today:

There is nothing good about the country’s ever more merciless campaign of immigration enforcement. But at least there are emerging signs of resistance, from one of the most important, yet curiously disengaged, players in the debate: employers.

The article concludes that if we are ever going to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, businesses must join in the fight. I agree, but sincerely hope that businesses will push for just and fair reform. We need to humanize the immigration system – for individuals and for businesses.

No match, No justice

Today, The Progressive published a great op-ed by Marissa Graciosa – here is the full article, you can click over here to read the orginal post and comment!

The Bush Administration is wrongly forcing government contractors to verify the legal status of their work force with the Social Security Administration.

For me, this is personal.

My mother taught me how to write my numbers. Raised in the Philippines and schooled by nuns who traced their roots back to Spain, she makes her 1s like a lot of Europeans — straight sticks with a leaf-like line coming off the top toward the left and the whole thing leaning toward the right as resting in the shade from the afternoon sun.

My 1s are my mother’s descendants, but anyone might easily mistake my 1s for 7s. And if a clerk for the Social Security Administration makes that mistake or other mistakes like that it could cost me and 13 million Americans our jobs.

The Social Security Administration’s “match list” is notoriously error prone. The agency’s own inspector general found that 13 million of the 17.8 million “no matches” were actually U.S. citizens. So the assumption that if you don’t have a match, then you’re here illegally is wrong at least 70 percent of the time! The discrepancies had occurred because of clerical errors or other innocent things, such as name changes from marriages or divorces.

The unreliability of the “match list” figured prominently in the reasoning of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, which ruled last year that the practice would harm thousands of innocent workers and employers. In another case, an appellate court in California this June ordered the company that runs the Staples Center in Los Angeles to reinstate 33 janitors it had summarily fired after receiving “no match” letters.

But this has not deterred President Bush. On June 9, he signed an executive order requiring all contractors and other companies that do business with the federal government to verify their employee’s identity in the federal Social Security database.

The Social Security Administration has better things to do. Chasing after undocumented immigrants who have Social Security taxes deducted from their incomes but don’t ever withdraw from the system because their ID numbers are false, not only wastes government’s time but actually robs us of that additional tax income.

Meanwhile, millions of U.S. citizens are also terrorized in the process by businesses looking for any excuse to abuse and fire workers.

And employers looking to evade the ruling will resort to sub-contracting more of their workforce, a practice that reliably lowers wages and benefits across the economy. In an interconnected economy, we need solutions that help all of us, rather than finger-pointing as we collectively race to the bottom.

My 1s might look funny, but why put me and 13 million Americans at risk at a time of growing economic uncertainty? Unfortunately, that’s not a typo.

Marissa Graciosa is the campaign coordinator for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a national coalition of more than 300 grassroots organizations led by the Center for Community Change. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

The System is just as Broken for Employers as it is for Immigrants

From the NY Times:

Both immigrants and their employers are caught in the hold of our broken immigration system…

Under pressure from the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in two decades, employers across the country are fighting back in state legislatures, the federal courts and city halls.

Business groups have resisted measures that would revoke the licenses of employers of illegal immigrants. They are proposing alternatives that would revise federal rules for verifying the identity documents of new hires and would expand programs to bring legal immigrant laborers.

Click here to read full article.