"Feds admit failure to stop illegal hiring"
Posted Wed, Jun 21, 2006 at 12:50 pm
Washington --- The Bush administration acknowledged Monday the wholesale failure of past efforts to enforce immigration laws in the workplace and warned that a major Senate-passed overhaul fails to provide the necessary tools to fix the problem.
...[Stewart Baker, homeland security undersecretary for policy planning] said the administration wants "to avoid the same mistake" made in 1986 when Congress voted amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants along with sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers.
"Obviously, that hasn't worked," Baker said, noting that the illegal population has soared from an estimated 3 million to 12 million since the previous overhaul.
Baker also cast doubt on whether the government could ramp up the required secure identification cards for the proposed new temporary worker program within an 18-month deadline set by the Senate bill. "It's an aggressive timetable," he told the Senate panel.
...[Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)] said the government has only 90 full-time immigration agents focusing on workplace violations nationwide and that it is "no wonder that many Americans are skeptical about how serious the federal government is about enforcing its own laws." The number of work site arrests dropped from 2,849 in 1999 to just 159 in 2004, he said.
"The American people feel like they were scammed" in the last immigration reform, Cornyn said. "If we're going to effectively solve this problem, we're going to have to regain their confidence."
Julie Myers, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said her agency has recently reinvigorated its workplace efforts by prosecuting executives of the worst offending companies as well as increasing reviews at high-security sites such as airports.
At the same time, she conceded that enforcement in the workplace has been ineffective.
"Egregious violators of the law viewed the fines as just a 'cost of doing business,' " she said in written testimony. Federal rules for checking identification have been "meaningless" because employers are not required to verify documents or keep copies of documents reviewed, she said. As a result, employers hiring illegal workers are "sheltered" from prosecution, Myers said.