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J. Mijin Cha on September 27, 2007 - 8:52am
The Illinois legislature recently amended the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to prohibit employers from enrolling in the federal Employment Eligibility Verification System (E-Verify), a voluntary program to supposedly identify the employment eligibility of new hires and verify Social Security numbers. The problem is that the system has estimated error rates between 5% and 10% and does not detect identity fraud or theft, inevitably leading to discrimination and unfair treatment of employees misidentified as lacking proper documentation.
The new Illinois measure would not allow participation in the E-Verify program until Homeland Security can conduct 99% of the E-Verify investigations and return the final results within three days in order to protect employees from unfair treatment.
Feds File Suit: The federal government responded to the measure by filing suit in court to overturn Illinois' law. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff personally attacked the measure by complaining that the Illinois law made it harder for the federal government to enforce immigration laws without acknowledging the potential threat to employees from using a system with such a high error rate.
Just last month a judge shut down new federal rules that had sought to force all employers to fire any employee who received a "no match" letter from the Social Security administration through systems like E-Verify. The lawsuit against the rules had been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the National Immigration Law Center, and others, based on exactly the problems identified by the Illinois law in the national identity verification system, so Chertoff should better understand why Illinois is opposing this kind of error-prone identification systems.
A Trend Rejecting Anti-Immigrant Measures: While anti-immigrant measures get a lot of media play, the reality is that many high-immigration states see such measures as self-defeating and costly.
- The Illinois law is part of an increasing trend to reverse reactionary immigration policies.
- Riverside was the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant. Since then, the town has suffered severe economic losses. Last week, just over a year since Riverside enacted the ordinance, the city council voted to rescind the measure.
- New York Governor Spitzer announced that drivers' licenses will be issued in the state regardless of immigration status, rolling back rules adopted four years ago. Governor Spitzer also decided to have New York cover cancer treatments for immigrants that the feds refuse to cover.
- The Arlington (Virginia) County Board passed a resolution that calls for promoting the integration of immigrants and strongly rebuked elected officials elsewhere in Northern Virginia for clamping down on illegal immigrants.