Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center -- ILRC

One of my April posts, HR4437 IS DEEPLY FLAWED, continues to get attention. Since that time the Senate has come up with a different immigration reform bill, S. 2611, also beset by problems. ILRC carefully outlines what they refer to as the "poison pill" features of this bill. Their site makes for interesting reading. Several of the examples used to illustrate the bill's shortcomings are consistent with my own experience in the food business.

Example: Esteban used his brother-in-law’s Social Security card so that he could work for the last five years. He hopes he will be eligible to legalize under a new law. However, under H.R. 4437 his past use of a false Social Security number would bar him. Even under the Senate proposals, if Esteban has to change jobs and use his false Social Security number before the government grants him work authorization, he will be barred from the program with no possible waiver or pardon.

Example: Julia, the wife of a disabled U.S. citizen, needs a job to help support her family, and uses her sister’s Social Security number to get a job. If she later applies to get a green card through her husband she will be barred, just because she had previously used a number. (And she is ineligible for the legalization program in the Senate “compromise” proposal because she has resided in the U.S. for less than two years.)

I have seen the same dynamics in my own experience. Most people have no idea what Form I-9 is and really don't care. But employers who want to be in compliance with the law know well that every person they hire, even those whose identity is as certain as that of their own family, must be documented in accordance with an I-9 form. When the word "undocumented" is used, Form I-9 is the exact document that is meant.

After nearly two years of excellent perfoemance as a model employee, one of my Mexican dishroom employees came to me one day with a younger family member to translate. His nephew explained that his uncle had been working from the beginning as a different person, having used the name and Social Security number of another family member from another state who was legal. After two years of effort he had finally succeeded in getting the proper documents for himself from the INS, and was now legally able to work with his own name and Social Security number. They proudly showed me the new ID card from the INS with the man's photo and new numbers.

This presented a dilemma. The company and I had employed this man long enough that he had already qualified for and taken a week or two of vacation, not to mention all the state and local taxes and FICA deductions withheld from his checks. After thinking about the problem, my solution was to terminate the first identity as though the employee had quit, then "hire" a new employee with the new name and identity. I apologized to the man that he had to start all over with a new anniversary date for the purpose of determining any benefits he might have coming. But because he was such a good employee, I also started him off at a higher rate than he had been earning before.

This is a one of a kind story, but it very well might not have been if all my employees had been as honest and fortunate as this one. Unfortunately, the story illustrates the exception, not the rule. But it also underscores the mess that we point to when discussing "immigration reform."

ILRC is an excellent resource and should be on everyone's reading list. Anyone claiming to be informed about immigration issues owes it to himself first to read the comments found here. For example, this portion refers to VD, or "Voluntary Departure." Specifically, it allows an individual who is obliged to leave the country to leave voluntarily a their own expence rather than being deported by the authorities at government expense.
...VD is a crucial alternative to receiving a removal order because it preserves future immigration options in some cases, for example if the person has U.S. citizen family. Often a person will apply for some option – for example, asylum – and request permission to leave voluntarily rather than be deported if the case is finally denied. VD also saves the government the cost of processing a deportation and paying for a ticket. H.R. 4437 and S. 2611 would penalize noncitizens for accepting VD by requiring them to waive all rights to challenge any order relating to removal or protection from removal. For example, if the person felt that the judge should have granted asylum based on religious persecution, she would have to choose between appealing what she felt was a wrong decision, and having permission to leave voluntarily instead of being deported to the country in which she faced persecution.

Example: An IJ denied Mali’s application for asylum based on religious persecution and ordered her to return to her home country. She believes this was a bad decision and wants to appeal it. If she does, however, she must agree that if she loses her appeal, she will accept deportation back to her home country rather than being able to voluntarily depart. This provision is mandatory even if a person is likely to be killed if she goes back to her home country and would prefer to be able to go to another country if she loses her appeal. There are no exceptions.

S. 2611 would bar VD for anyone who has ever engaged in any activity to oppose the U.S., which could potentially include immigrants who engage in dissent, such as trespassing in front of a federal building. S. 2611 also reduces the time that a person has to voluntarily depart from 120 days to 60 or 45 days in certain cases. Such deadlines impose an unreasonable and unnecessary hardship for individuals, including permanent residents, who must wind up their affairs and prepare to leave. Finally, S. 2611 includes increased penalties for failure to comply with VD: ineligibility for any relief for all of the time the alien remains in the U.S., plus 10 years after departure from the U.S.; makes failure to pay bond a failure to comply with the order regardless of exigent circumstances; and imposes a 2 year sentence enhancement if a noncitizen re-enters the U.S. after previously being granted VD. These harsh provisions will lead to more individuals ordered removed instead of being granted VD and decrease the limited flexibility of an already overly rigid system. The negative consequences for people are apparent, but there are negative consequences as well for the federal government: It will have to bear the costs of removal, even though individuals would rather voluntarily leave and pay their own way. This nonsensical result is the opposite of what the statute seeks to achieve – timely departures from the U.S.

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