Legislature should take caution with immigration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 27, 2008

The issue: Immigration bills have sailed through the House Judiciary Committee.

Our position: Immigration is more of a federal issue. The state should move cautiously on this. There are other more demanding matters.

Xenophobia is defined as unreasonable hatred or fear of foreigners.

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What the House Judiciary Committee did Thursday by passing eight immigration bills could be interpreted as action taken out of fear of the unfamiliar or foreign.

But state Rep. Yusuf Salaam, D-Selma, seems to have a deeper understanding of the issues when he said committee members seemed to be trying to placate the public.

Then, perhaps it is not the legislators, but the public that has overreacted in this case.

Take, for instance, the measure that would cost the business licenses of those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

This is nothing new.

Arizona and Oklahoma have the laws on their books.

But here’s the problem: How do you prove that someone is an illegal immigrant?

This nation doesn’t have a reliable database employers can use to verify documentation, although President Bush has pushed his “E-Verify” program.

In late 2007, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a report that said the program didn’t meet accuracy standards set by Congress.

E-Verify allows employers to verify Social Security numbers for new workers. The 254-page report said some improvements were made in the database’s accuracy, but has missed the mark established by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

Federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration, review some of the cases manually, but the process takes lots of time and could result in discrimination against some foreign-born people, especially if employers don’t follow procedures to protect employee rights.

Additionally, the system is vulnerable to incorrect information submitted by employers.

Now consider this: Alabama can’t do anything about the fact that it can’t go after employers in light of the difficulty of proving they knowingly hired illegal aliens. And that verification is a function of the federal government.

Seems like Salaam’s concerns have weight: This is another example of legislative apple-polishing.

Members of the Judiciary Committee should slow down before placing useless laws on the books.