Immigration reformer tries new angle – employers of illegal aliens

Immigration reformer tries new angle – employers of illegal aliens – column

Ken Rankin

Immigration reformer tries new angle

The late Robert Neville, former executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, expressed the most effective and logical argument against Federal legislation to penalize employers of illegal aliens.

What sense does it make, he reasoned, to deny employment to undocumented immigrants while allowing them to apply for and receive public assistance?

That is locking the front door while leaving the back door wide open!

Whenever Neville raised that argument, politicians on both sides of the aisle would squirm. And invariably they would dodge the issue altogether.

But even though he is no longer with us, Bob Neville’s point about the incongruity of immigration “reforms’ targeted solely at employers of illegal aliens is finally receiving attention on Capitol Hill.

The reason: legislation introduced by Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) to cut off all Government welfare payments, food stamps, Medicaid assistance and unemployment compensation benefits to undocumented aliens.

“The basis of the legislation is simple,’ Hawkins explained. “People who have violated American immigration laws and entered this country illegally should not have access to the American welfare system.’

Under her proposal, state officials would be required to obtain sworn statements from all public-assistance applicants that they are either U.S. citizens or aliens lawfully residing in this country.

The “alien file number’ of all noncitizens applying for welfare would then be cross-checked with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to verify the individual’s immigration status. if this I.N.S. verification check reveals that the applicant is ineligible for benefits–and if the individual is unable to provide documents establishing legal entry to the U.S.–public-assistance payments would be terminated.

“The potential savings from this legislation is incredible,’ Hawkins told Congress. “The I.N.S has done some research and conducted several pilot projects in this area and found it to be both doable and worthwhile–worthwhile to the tune of $10.7 billion if a full program of eligibility verification were required in each state.’

The Hawkins bill, of course, would not resolve the food-service industry’s longstanding concerns over separate legislative proposals to impose sanctions on employers of illegal aliens.

Indeed, it could well be argued that passage of her measure would make it more likely that Congress will approve separate legislation denying employment to undocumented immigrants.

Indirectly, however, her proposal might just point the way for easing the verification and record-keeping burdens on restaurateurs in the event that Federal sanctions are imposed on employers of illegal aliens.

If I.N.S can set up an alien status verification system for state welfare programs for a few thousand dollars, as Hawkins suggested, there is no reason why individual employers should not be able to tap into this same system to verify the immigration stat of job applicants.

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