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Roger Gitlin: Support E-Verify

Posted: March 1, 2009 1:26 a.m.
Updated: March 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Some months back, I was visiting a friend who was entertaining other guests at his home at the time. One of those individuals owned a fast-food franchise in Santa Clarita.

It wasn't long before he and I broached the subject of illegal immigrants in the work force, whom he unknowingly (or knowingly) employed at his franchise.

He said to me, "Roger, you just don't understand. I would not be able to make it if I did not hire illegal immigrants. They work for less and make fewer demands on me."

The bluntness of his answer momentarily silenced me. Then I answered back, "If you have to hire illegal aliens for your business to be successful, then you have a bad business model."

I reminded him of the health care concerns with persons who have not been checked for communicable diseases and the broad social impact of illegal immigration that presently overwhelms the United States. I also reminded him it is against the law to hire anyone who is not in the country legally.

He politely excused himself from our conversation and that was that.

As the near-trillion-dollar so-called stimulus bill takes effect, one item conveniently left out of the bailout package was the re-authorization of E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

E-Verify, which is free to employers in all 50 states, provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.

The system is nearly 100 percent efficient. Within seconds, 93 percent of all job applicants can be verified as to their eligibility to work in the United States. The remaining 7 percent can be verified within 24 to 72 hours.

E-Verify was due to expire in November, but an extension was granted until March 6.

Federal contractors await a May 21, 2009, deadline date on E-Verify. Until that time, companies doing business with the United States government are not required to use E-Verify.

If E-Verify is not renewed by Congress and signed by the president, the voluntary program will die.

I spoke with a well-known landscape contractor in Santa Clarita who preferred I not identify his company. The proprietor told me he was pleased with E-Verify and his success with the program.

Eight of 10 applicants who apply for work with his company are rejected on immigration status alone. He also told me his company insists on drug and alcohol testing, a practice that screens out additional applicants.

The company has established a stellar reputation in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys, and I would attribute that reputation to the strict hiring practices implemented.

I also spoke at length with the Shutz family, owners of the McDonald's franchise in the Santa Clarita Valley. Principal franchise owner Mark Schutz, though not a subscriber to E-Verify, uses other McDonald's Corporation practices to abide by all immigration laws.

Personally, I am delighted to hear that McDonald's sets the tone for fast-food franchises. As full- and part-time positions become available at the restaurants, many of the Santa Clarita unemployed may find working at McDonald's extremely helpful.

The president promised in pre-election rhetoric that he was going to crack down on employers of illegal aliens. Sadly, while endless pork was placed in the stimulus bill - including a last-minute unannounced $8 billion bullet train from Disneyland to Las Vegas compliments of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada - the E-Verify reauthorization disappeared from the bill.

According to Homeland Security, an estimated 8.7 million illegals now hold jobs in the United States obtained using forged or stolen Social Security identities. The voluntary E Verify system would identify those lawbreakers and do a lot to lower that number.

The group most dramatically affected by illegal employment is blacks. The national unemployment rate for blacks is almost 13 percent. It is higher in California and still higher in Los Angeles County.

Here's what we must do:

n Contact members of Congress and ask them to re-authorize E-Verify for a minimum of five years.

Since Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, is already on board, you don't have to worry how he will vote for E-Verify.

Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Diane Feinstein, both D-Calif., have not made their positions crystal clear. I urge you to call their offices and tell them to extend E-Verify.

n Call on all employers to sign up for E-Verify. The cost is modest. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, says at least 2,000 businesses sign up for E-Verify weekly. To sign up, log on to the Department of Homeland Security www.vis-dhl.com./Employer Registration.

If you are aware of any companies or stores that knowingly hire illegal aliens, do not do business with them. Tell them they are breaking the law. Tell them to hire American citizens.

There are now 11.6 million unemployed Americans, and that number is growing. Available jobs should go to American citizens first. That is non-negotiable.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is on the Obama agenda soon. The president is going to push for amnesty for upward of 30 million. How do you feel about that?

Roger Gitlin is a Minuteman and a Santa Clarita Valley high school teacher. He can be reached at ragitlin@aol.com. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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