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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Illegal Immigration: Employer sanctions could 'turn off the magnet'

Reprinted with permission from Sonoran News, Cave Creek, Arizona. Illegal immigration: Employer Sanctions Could 'Turn off the Magnet' is the sixth in a series of articles on the Southwest Conference on Illegal Immigration, Border Security and Crime hosted by Maricopa County Attorney's Office that was held Nov. 4 – 5.

We'll remain a nation of laws.

Reporter for Sonoran News

SCOTTSDALE - Julio Cesar Ortiz, a KTVW-TV33 Univision reporter, moderated Saturday morning’s first panel discussion, “Employer Sanctions: What is to be Done?” Rep. J.D. Hayworth, RAriz., began the discussion by saying, Secretary Michael Chertoff announced there would be an enforcement compliment to homeland security, adding, “In the wake of 9/11, for the government to say we will need a decade to get control of our borders is an outrage.” Citing Islamics were adopting Hispanic aliases to blend in while entering the country from Mexico, Hayworth touched on a few components of his recently introduced “Enforcement First,” legislation, which calls for employer sanctions and a 500 percent increase in civil fines for violations.

While Hayworth believes the visa program is too cumbersome to utilize for service related industries, he said, “The reality is, we are a nation at war. Border security and national security is one and the same.” With a renewal of purpose, he said businesses and free people would adapt, but the balkanization of America would create a permanent underclass.

Hayworth said, “Turn off the magnet. We’ll remain a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.” Joe Sigg, representing the Arizona Farm Bureau, said he appreciated agriculture being included in the discussion and joked about how he was called an “apologist for economic interests” for participating.

“Social change always precedes legal changes. We remained in denial,” said Sigg.

He mentioned a social security number mismatch letter sent to an agricultural employer by the Social Security Administration, which revealed 60 percent of the company’s workforce was using fraudulent documents.

Sigg stated, “Employers must act responsibly.” Referring to comments made during one of the previous day’s panel discussions, he said, “I reject yesterday’s assertions that agriculture has not embraced technology.

I’ve been in agriculture all my life, and the native-born workforce is simply not interested in these jobs.

“Why can’t we use a visa program? We have plenty of laws already on the books,” Sigg emphasized, “We need a visa program that works.” Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Western Regional Director Rick Oltman said the conference represented a change in the political landscape over the last year along with the passage of Arizona’s Proposition 200, the Minutemen and talk radio.

Oltman said, “These three things have put the issue back in the forefront. Now we can talk about solutions.” By not imposing employer sanctions and employers accepting fake IDs, Oltman stated, “Removing illegal aliens has become a low priority,” and said, “I don’t think there was one business cited last year.” Even though three pilot programs were found to be effective for screening the legality of workers, he said the worker verification program is still only voluntary.
Oltman pointed out there are employers who want to hire legal workers, but end up subjected to discrimination lawsuits.

State Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, said, “I feel like the Lone Ranger here. I simply want to work toward common ground.” He said, “Before we begin on employer sanctions … the system is broken. Until we look for common ground, we can’t begin employer sanctions.” Miranda cited labor statistics about how the available labor pool sank by 33 percent, and stated, “We’re an aging population.” He said it used to be 20 percent of our population didn’t attain a high school diploma, but now it was only 7 percent.

“From a practical level,” Miranda said, “Our children aren’t going to be janitors or work our crops. We need immigration for these jobs.” Miranda stated visas were such an obstacle, the process cumbersome, and said, “I want to hear from Andrew Thomas and J.D. Hayworth.
Are you going to do mass deportation? What are you going to do?” Because the Chamber of Commerce funded opposition to Proposition 200, Hayworth wondered how it could be considered viable while condoning illegal immigration.

“There’s this wonderful mythology out there about special interest groups,” said Hayworth, adding, “If you live in the Fifth Congressional District, you’re my special interest.

“Why don’t we enforce the laws first then let’s see what we need to do.” Sigg said the Chamber does not condone illegality nor did he condone any “employers who knowingly violate the law.” He asked, “Does the need to harvest justify hiring illegals?” and said, “The system is set up so employers don’t know they’re hiring illegals.” According to Oltman, what the Immigration Act of 1996 basically achieved was the creation of a huge black market for IDs. He said, “The laws on the books need to be enforced,” and cited “Operation Vanguard,” a special task force that effectively targeted illegal employees working in meat packing plants.

Miranda said, “You cannot trigger one end of a system without the other. If we want to go down that route, we’ll find we need immigrant labor.” Ortiz asked Hayworth why the basic pilot system was not being sought out by employers.

Hayworth responded, “The reason it’s not being utilized is because it’s voluntary. If it’s mandatory, suddenly everything’s changed.” “I’m sure there are people we need to deport,” said Miranda, “But we need to talk about common ground.” Miranda then said 70 percent of unpaid hospital bills were unpaid by native-born Americans.

Oltman responded to Miranda’s comments by saying, “Common ground is: Obey the law. When it comes to immigration reform,” he said, quoting Winston Churchill, “We’re at the end of the beginning.” Siggs didn’t agree with making employee verification mandatory, saying the verification program was not reliable, and added, “We need access to a legal and reliable labor supply.” Hayworth concluded, “Americans will do the right thing only if it’s the last resort,” while reiterating, “We are a nation at war. Border security is national security.

This is a matter of national security. The time is now.

Enforce the laws.” He went on to say, “The attitude in this country is we’re supposed to feel sorry for people in this country illegally.” Hayworth then said the Constitution requires the government protect its citizens against foreign invasion.

“We’re not doing that.

The Department of Homeland Security is a joke. It’s not providing homeland security.” While 36 percent of those here illegally are visa overstays, Hayworth mocked those who claim, “We just don’t have the resources,” and asked, “Where did the billions of dollars go?” He pointed out there are only 51 full-time agents assigned to 3.1 million overstays and said, “Mr. Thomas has really taken the lead on this. We need elected officials who are not going to wimp out.”

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