Keep public jobs for legal residents

It used to be difficult for an employer to know whether or not they were hiring illegal residents, but that has changed.

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2009 2:20am
  • Opinion

Political

Columnist

It used to be difficult for an employer to know whether or not they were hiring illegal residents, but that has changed.

Today employers can use the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, which is simple, free and more than 99 percent accurate. It conducts an instant background check on employees using federal databases to verify their legal eligibility to work in the United States. More than 120,000 businesses at nearly half a million work sites already use the system, with a thousand more signing up every week. Janet Napolitano, President Obama’s director of Homeland Security, told Congress last week that “I’m a big supporter of E-Verify,” which she calls “an essential tool for employers to maintain a legal workforce.” But one type of employer in Washington state has been extremely reluctant to use E-Verify: local government.

The city of Lakewood in Pierce County may soon screen its new employees with the system and require companies that contract with the city to do the same. Organizations getting taxpayer financed grants would also have to comply. City officials say they are unaware of any other city government doing this.

How come?

Why isn’t Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Maple Valley and every other city government already doing this? In fact, let’s go further. Why isn’t E-Verify mandatory for all levels of government everywhere in Washington state? Is there a public interest furthered in allowing the diversion of public jobs and contracting dollars to people who aren’t legally living here? Is there a tax-payer financed job that illegal immigrants can do that legal residents can’t? Language barriers are a legitimate concern, but aren’t there plenty of citizens and green card holders who speak languages other than English?

So why would anyone object to E-Verify? Here’s why: the open-borders lobby. Jorge Baron from the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, says that E-Verify has flaws, such as the inability to detect document fraud by employees.

Does anyone really believe that a group committed to helping illegal immigrants is concerned that too many of them are getting jobs by using forged documents? Until E-Verify came along, false Social Security numbers were used constantly by illegal workers. But E-Verify aligns numbers with names, making fraud much more difficult. The system will become even more foolproof when they compare the data with photos from green cards and drivers licenses. It is precisely because the system works that its critics oppose it.

Businesses use credit card background checks billions of times a day. Gun stores use instant background checks for anyone seeking to buy a firearm. Is there a reason why government shouldn’t use a background check to make sure that public jobs are going to people, citizens and otherwise, who follow the rules and reside here legally?

Ensuring that public jobs go to legal residents is more than a good idea. It ought to be the law of the land. And if the legislature doesn’t step up to the job, then the people should do it for them through the initiative process.

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