Thursday, September 27, 2007
The list of states suffering from the Anti Immigrants measure starting to climbing every day. Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, Arizona know Oklahoma. Who's next California?.
Immigration crackdown called devastating to economy.
The telephone lines in Oklahoma City's Capitol Hill area were afire two weeks ago, as word spread that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had set up checkpoints on S Harvey and Robinson streets
Neighbors called to warn each other. Children were corralled into homes. The streets, typically full of restaurant goers and shoppers, nearly were bare.
That raid netted about 65 arrests, sending waves of panic through the predominately Hispanic neighborhood. But that panic pales in comparison to the effect of plans currently underway in Washington.
On that Capitol Hill, the Department of Homeland Security has unveiled a 26-point initiative that, among other things, requires all employers to terminate workers who use fake Social Security numbers.
"We know that people in the Latino community are really scared. You can see it, walking on the streets. People are selling their houses. They are leaving,” said Julianna Stout, 27, who edits a Spanish language publication called El Nacional de Oklahoma.
"They aren't just going to another state; they are going back to their countries of origin, which is not a good thing. It's not good for the economy,” she added.
Employers who do not comply may face fines or criminal sanctions
Department of Homeland Security officials said the initiative is designed to strike at the root of illegal immigration — the availability of jobs. Stepped up enforcement efforts would also provide for more border security and strict entry and exit procedures for foreign visitors.
"If we go after the employers, if we make it very risky for them to hire illegal immigrants, make them share in the penalties, there will be less of an incentive to cross the border,” said Pat Reilly, U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman.
No match, no jobAbout 2.2 percent of all W-2 forms contain "no match” Social Security numbers or names.
"No match” notices are letters sent to U.S. businesses that have more than 11 people on their payroll whose name does not match the Social Security number the employee is using. The letters have routinely gone out over the years, but the discrepancies rarely were resolved.
In 2005, about 10.5 million "no match” letters were mailed out. This year, it has been estimated that 12.5 million letters will go out.
But this year, the "no match” letters, if they are mailed, will come with a twist: An insert from the Department of Homeland Security and a 90-day time-frame to either resolve the discrepancy or terminate the worker.
Upwards of 90 percent of "no match” discrepancies are believed to involve illegal immigrants using fraudulent documents to work in the United States.
"It's the magnet, no one disagrees with that. The reason we have so many illegal immigrants that come here is to get a job, to get hired,” Reilly said.
It is believed the letters ultimately will be used as investigative tools in future worksite enforcement investigations.
The initial mailing of the letters, scheduled to start last Friday, has been blocked until an Oct. 1 hearing.
Laws may hurt economy
The letters have been vilified by immigrant advocates, multiple industry sectors, labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who argue they will lead to widespread labor shortages, especially in agriculture, construction and food services. They argue it forces employers to act as immigration police. They argue immigrants will not leave the country but go underground where taxes are not paid and workers are routinely exploited. Ultimately they argue it will be devastating for the economy.
"You have to create a way for employers who need immigrant workers to get those workers, otherwise you are going to choke the economy,” said Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a "free market” think tank.
While Jacoby says shoring up the Social Security Administration database is critical to national security and immigration reform, alone it might do more harm than good.
"The ‘no match' thing is a paradox,” she said.
"Meat packers are going to go out of business. Farms are going to move to Mexico. Even if you can pay better wages, it's going to be difficult to find enough American workers to fill all those jobs,” Jacoby said. "It will be devastating for the economy.”
At Maxpollo, a Hispanic-owned restaurant on S Harvey, Tex-Mex music is played a little above conversation level. The late-afternoon lunch crowd, primarily Hispanic workers, has thinned
"All of our customers here are Hispanic,” said Luiz Hernandez, whose father Max Hernandez owns Maxpollo. "We are going to lose a lot of business
While restaurant employees are not illegal, he assumes many customers are.
"Most of them, maybe, are here illegally,” Hernandez said. "It's not fair because they're just trying to make a living here.”
David Castillo, 47, is executive director of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. About five years ago, the chamber conducted a survey discovering more than 250 new Hispanic-owned businesses within a 10-mile radius of the 4300 block of S Walker.
But this year, he's seeing economic depression, fear and ultimately anger.
"Some people have already closed up shop. Business has dropped tremendously,” Castillo said.
Even those here lawfully feel they are being targeted.
"It makes them feel like, ‘I'm not wanted here,'” he added.
Randy Terrill, R-Moore, co-sponsored Oklahoma's own immigration enforcement legislation — largely considered one of the toughest in the nation — set to go into effect Nov. 1.
For him, that's the point.
"We are talking about people who have entered this country illegally, and are now making demands for rights, specifically the right to pursue employment, for which they are not eligible,” Terrill said.
More laws coming
On Monday, the U.S. Congress returned to immigration, three months after it died on the Senate Floor. This time around, debates are narrower in scope and calmer in nature.
Democrats suggest giving conditional legal status to young illegal immigrants while Republicans consider overhauling the visa program for high-skilled foreign workers.
"If the administration doesn't have the resolve to do even this — reasonable enforcement of the law — I don't think the American public will have the appetite for anything else,” said Todd Gaziano, director for the center of judicial studies at the Heritage Foundation, also a conservative think tank.
"We need to have a breathing period, to actually engage in enforcement, then the American public might have the appetite for a temporary worker program,” he added.
Oklahoma's wide-ranging immigration law, House Bill 1804, goes into effect Nov. 1 for state and local government employers. It won't affect government contractors and subcontractors until July 1. It is largely considered one of the toughest immigration enforcement legislations in the country, requiring that employees check the immigration status of all new hires and contractors.
It also will open the door for U.S. citizens to file discrimination cases against employers if they have been fired and an illegal immigrant was subsequently hired to do the same job