SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



By Mike Harpold


May 01, 2006

"You know, our small-business owners are not document checkers." President Bush said in remarks about pending immigration legislation to a business audience in Orange County, California last week. Little noticed because the debate over immigration legislation has largely centered on granting amnesty to illegal immigrants, the remark signaled to employers that the White House was not interested in getting tough on employment eligibility verification provisions in any new legislation. But the remark underscores the reason why the United States has been unable to prevent almost 12 million illegal immigrants from entering and staying in the country, most arriving since 9/11, and underscores the resistance of employers to the changes in immigration laws needed to secure our borders.

In fact, business owners are document checkers. Every time you as a customer make a purchase with a credit card, or pay for a meal at a restaurant, your credit card is validated electronically through a national data system. Yet, as pointed out in a recent article in the New York Times, The Search for Illegal Immigrants Stops at the Workplace, March 5, 2006, only 2,300 of the nation s 6 million employers do the same for the documents presented by a job applicant. Being fair to employers, however, neither the Clinton nor the Bush administration has upgraded the anemic system currently in place to be able to adequately handle every inquiry.

A phony social security card and green card, Mexicans call them, Mickey Mouse papers, cost about $40, and serve not only to secure illegal immigrants work, but at the same time provide legal cover for the employers that hire them. Many employers have found a comfort zone between a cursory check of a prospective employees papers, thus complying with the law, and benefitting from the cheap labor of employees who they must know are illegal.

Through the 90 s and into this decade, the numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. increased, propping open the door to the simultaneous entry of tons of drugs, tens of thousands of criminals, and even illegal immigrants from terrorist supporting states. Two successive administrations responded wrong-headedly by shutting down enforcement efforts in the workplace and beefing up resources on the Mexican border. The level of workplace enforcement decreased so dramatically that by the year 2004, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the successor agency to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, issued only three Notices of Intent to Fine to employers found to have failed to verify the lawful status of a job applicant.

Trying to enforce our borders while shutting down law enforcement against illegal immigrants already here is like trying to win at a game of football by placing your entire defensive backfield on the line of scrimmage. Once past the line, every runner scores. Worse, it leaves no enforcement against the millions of illegal immigrants who simply fly into our country as tourists, purchase a set of false identity papers, find a job, and stay.

I am glad that millions of illegal immigrants are in the street demonstrating; for once most Americans can actually view what in the past has been a shadow population. Americans can argue about whether or not there should be another amnesty. We can argue about whether cheap labor, and cheap lettuce, are good for the country or bad. But our borders will remain broken unless we recognize that jobs are the reason people come to this country. And without a workable mechanism to deny jobs to those who enter illegally, and the willingness of employers to cooperate, no solution is possible.

Mike Harpold
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: Mike Harpold retired as the Supervisory Immigration Officer for Southeast Alaska after a 35 year career with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, including 5 1/2 years in the U.S. Border Patrol.


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