Anti-Immigrant Program in Obama's Stimulus Plan

By Larry Jones

 Thanks to my weekly e-mail from “Truth In Immigration” (TII), I just learned that the present version of Obama’s economic stimulus package contains expanded funding for the “E-Verify” program. “E-Verify” is an online program operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration. This is a program that requires employers to electronically check prospective employees’ legal status. As DHS states, “employers can check the work status of new hires online by comparing information from an employee's I-9 form against SSA and Department of Homeland Security databases. The overriding purpose of this program is to subject all prospective and existing employees – particularly immigrants -- to an unprecedented degree of government screening and monitoring, under the guise of determining “eligibility” for employment. It is also calculated to be a key part of whipping up an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust towards immigrants. And finally, as TII points out, it is a program which often contains harmful errors (see: http://www.truthinimmigration.org/Home.aspx).
 

 

Currently, according to DHS, “87,000 employers are enrolled in the program, with over 6.5 million queries run so far in fiscal year 2008.” DHS also claims that the number of employers using E-Verify is growing by over 1,000 a week, and that its use is “an essential tool … to maintaining a legal work force”. Beginning January 15 this year, all employers who contract with the federal government are required to use E-Verify.
 
The TII email stated that “Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved two amendments in the economic stimulus bill that would expand the harmful and ineffective program.” The National Immigration Law Center says that“[t]his will not only delay use of stimulus funds, but will hurt millions of workers. It should be stripped from the bill.

“The amendment represents a massive expansion of the E-Verify program. As has been well documented, the E-Verify program is deeply flawed, inaccurate, and subject to substantial employer abuse. Bottom line - it is not ready for a massive expansion and definitely not in times of economic crisis.”
 
In July of last year The Christian Science Monitor reported just one example of how E-Verify fails. The same day Fernando Tinoco started his job at a Chicago meatpacking plant, he was fired because company officials said that the E-Verity process reported “tentative non-confirmation,” meaning that he may not be a citizen. But Tinoco has been a citizen since 1989. When he finally got a letter from SSA confirming his citizenship, he was told by the company to go away because he had been fired.
Another example concerns an engineer named Rahi Golshan, who disputed his rejection through E-Verify. "I think I called DHS first and they told me to call Social Security," Golshan says. "Then I took a visit up to Baltimore and went to Social Security office there." There he discovered that his records had not been updated since he had become a citizen. There are many other cases like Golshan’s and critics say there are millions of SS records with typos or spelling errors. (See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16126268 )
The far right immigrant-bashing CNN commentator Lou Dobbs, of course, loves the program. Anything that makes life difficult for immigrants, documented or not, suits him fine. But TII says that “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; and
 
* 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.”
 
CURRENT IMMIGRATION POLITICS ON E-VERIFY
 
The precise position of President Barack Obama is unclear. His website is silent on this particular aspect of immigration. However, it does show that he is all for border enforcement and fixing what he calls a “dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy, without stating what parts of it he would “fix.” He also is in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented people now living in the shadows.
 
Immigration march LA 2006
It would be good if he were lobby Congress against the amendments the House Appropriations Committee has just passed which would greatly expand E-Verify
, but not correct its many flaws. For those of you who are inclined to pressure politicos, TII has asked that you express your opposition to this harmful expansion by calling Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-0100 and David R. Obey, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee at 202-225-3365. 
 
Immigrant and Latino rights groups have not faded away nor given up hope for genuine change brought about my millions in the street, such as happened in March of 2006 in numerous cities across the nation. 
 
These protests awakened those running for office in the years following, including Obama. They learned that the Latino community and immigrants in particular are a force to be reckoned with. This is the picture we must hold up as our ongoing goal. There’s nothing wrong with pressuring politicians, but the scenes of protests pouring through Los Angeles and other cities illustrates what must and can be done by a people who won’t sit still for business as usual and who demand genuine justice.
Main Immigrants Anti-Immigrant Program in Obama's Stimulus Plan

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