New America Media, News Report, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Apr 08, 2008
Editor’s Note: Electronic programs to verify employment eligibility are meant to detect those working in the United States illegally. But an unlikely coalition of unions, business organizations and conservatives fear that error-filled databases might end up impacting citizens as well. NAM editor Roberto Lovato is a writer based in New York.
Two hours after starting his new job at a food processing plant in 2006, Fernando Tinoco got fired. “I went to work, felt really good to have a new job and started going to it,” says Tinoco, a 53-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Chicago. “And then they called me into the office and told me that my Social Security number was fake,” he adds, “And then they fired me.” Apparently, Tyson Foods Inc., Tinoco’s former employer, was one of the more than 52,000 companies voluntarily participating in “E-Verify”, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program designed to identify undocumented workers by electronically verifying their employment eligibility.
After the Kafkaesque experience of being hired, fired and trying to maneuver through the famously overstretched bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration to re-confirm status, Citizen Tinoco has become an outspoken critic of U.S. immigration laws’ impact on citizens. “I think that citizens need to be as careful of these new immigration laws,” says Tinoco, who now works at a school, adding, “they can ruin our lives too.” Tinoco found his concerns echoed by Jim Harper of the conservative Cato Institute, who recently wrote that “If E-Verify goes national, get used to hearing that Orwellian term: ‘non-confirmation.’”
That is why E-Verify is opposed by an unlikely alliance that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, major unions, Republican legislators and others. But it is only one of a growing number of legislative and administrative immigration control initiatives that Tinoco and many critics believe will negatively impact not just non-citizens, but citizens as well. This week, for example, Congress is considering the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act, which includes provisions that mandate a national verification system like that of the more voluntary state programs like E-Verify. Also causing intense fear is last week’s announcement by the Bush administration of revisions to its “No Match letter” plan, which requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to send out 140,000 letters demanding that employers fire workers whose Social Security numbers did not match those in their records. Advocates are concerned that, like the E-Verify program and SAVE Act, the new No Match regulations will affect other U.S. citizens and authorized workers thanks to the same kind of faulty record keeping that led to Tinoco’s firing.
“By viewing these initiatives through the narrow lens of ‘immigration policy’ sold to us by politicians many fail to see that many of these programs will have direct impacts on many citizens,” says Michele Waslin, senior research analyst with the Immigration Policy Center. To support their claims, Waslin and other critics point to several reports like one by the SSA’s Office of Inspector General that found that there are 17.8 million discrepancies in the SSA’s records relating to lawful American workers. The report also found that 70 percent or 12.7 million of those inconsistencies belong to native-born (as opposed to naturalized) U.S. citizens.
Some advocates like Harper of the Cato Institute are fighting the proposals because they believe that there are no checks against government error or abuse against citizens in the programs ostensibly targeting those here illegally. “Once built,” wrote Harper, “this government monitoring system would soon be extended to housing, financial services, and other essentials to try to get at illegal immigrants. It would also be converted to policy goals well beyond immigration control.” Waslin agrees. “These programs will do nothing to deal with undocumented immigrants because people will simply go further underground,” says Waslin. “But they will eventually lead to a situation that will force every single person to ask the government for permission to work. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Is it really worth it?’”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation, answers Waslin’s question with a resounding ‘no’, a ‘no’ accompanied by lawsuits, letter-writing and lobbying.
For their part, DHS representatives say that concerns about the effects on citizens are misplaced. The number of citizens mistakenly impacted by programs like No Match and E-Verify programs, says DHS spokesperson Amy Kudwa, “are a small portion of the population. Ninety-two percent of all E-verify queries are returned without incident in less than eight seconds and only 1 percent of them are contested. These are important tools in fighting illegal immigration.”
But advocates point out that, despite being run on trial basis, E-Verify and other programs have already demonstrated disconcerting flaws that are rooted in the unreliability of the technology and the databases like that of SSA.
In the face of so many legislative proposals and administrative initiatives, Tinoco says his obligation to speak only grows because of his concern for his fellow immigrants - and fellow citizens. “I still don’t understand: how can this happen here? It’s like a movie, a very bad movie.” Asked what message he has for his fellow citizens, Tinoco answers, “This can happen to you too.”
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
New America Media, News Report, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Apr 08, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
WAIVERS PAVE WAY FOR DEVASTATING BORDER WALL
A LETTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE*
APRIL 4, 2008
FOR MORE INFO, CONTACT
FERNANDO GARCIA, (915) 204-0337,
ADRIENNE EVANS (915) 276-0402,
BILL GUERRA ADDINGTON (915) 539-4158
*This letter was signed by over 200 human rights and environmental
groups and activists, as well as border residents and concerned U.S.
April 1, 2008 was the beginning of a very sad time for millions of us
on the border, in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and
throughout the U.S. The Bush administration issued two waivers on
April 1 that circumvent dozens of U.S. environmental and other laws to
pave the way for wall construction to begin immediately on the Texas
border, and to continue on the New Mexico, Arizona and California borders.
With such an action, spearheaded by DHS Secretary Chertoff, the
Federal Government shows a major failure to work and consult with
border communities on the wall issue. Clearly, Chertoff is flexing
his muscle upon the border residents. Instead of dialogue and
consultation we, at the border, will receive imposition and
We on the border know that a wall won't work, and that it is not a
real solution. Many others know this also. We, the undersigned
individuals and organizations, are trying to educate the public and
elected officials about how the wall and militarization of the border
will profoundly impact the wildlife, the environment, our river and
the lives and rights of people on both sides of the border. The
executive branch of our government and the U.S. Congress, by their
actions, do not seem to care about any of that.
We believe that Americans must realize before it is too late that
their government is wasting taxpayer money in building an 18-foot-high
barrier along sections of the border, as well as in increasing the
militarization of the border communities, in a vain attempt to close
In three Texas counties, DHS intends to combine walls with the
existing flood control levees. By building this structure before it
has been thoroughly evaluated for safety and effectiveness, DHS is
recklessly endangering lives and property of border residents in these
We all now must endure an unimaginably difficult time during which our
nation's fears are manifested in an ancient, ugly form -- a wall –-
and manifested even more by increased militarization. In China,
Berlin, Israel, Palestine and Northern Ireland, WALLS DIDN'T WORK.
They definitely don't work in the U.S. either. They, primarily,
decimate human rights and show intolerance and rejection. They kill
hundreds of people annually in the U.S. because they drive people
crossing the border to walk through more remote areas of desert where
many then die of dehydration and exposure.
After lessons are learned, most walls are taken down. Thereafter, the
wall builders are ridiculed, if they are acknowledged at all. Walls
have failed to keep people out (or in) but, however, have damaged both
human and riparian habitat permanently.
The Rio Grande is a very sacred and special place, with several
wildlife refuges that will be devastated by a wall. In New Mexico,
California, and Arizona, there are many special and sacred places
along the border, including wildlife refuges and tribal lands, where
a wall has already been built, unbeknownst to most Americans. Many of
us have lived, farmed, and ranched along the border for generations.
We urge the American public to hold on to images of the border, its
people, and the environment as worth protecting, and to keep in mind
that the wall is temporary because it was born of a failed policy.
We the undersigned ask Americans not to let a wall divide our border
community. Even though the executive branch of the current
administration has exercised undue power to bring about the
construction, we the people must call, write and organize to stop the
wall. If it is built, we must demand that it be taken down. We ask
the American public to keep foremost in their minds the fact that the
border area encompasses one community that includes both sides.
By our actions and our words, we must hold to peace along the border.
Compassion, understanding and hope must inform the struggle that is
by necessity taking place on many levels right now along the
U.S.-Mexico border. We demand that our border communities not be
devastated by a wall and by militarization.
We will not remain silent as our country's constitutionally- guaranteed
freedoms and even its laws are swept aside in the name of greed, fear
and anti-immigrant fervor under the guise of "improving national
security." Our country was founded on Constitutional protections as
well as immigration, both of which are historically the very basis of
what makes us American.
Americans need to wake up to the fact that signs of tyranny and
imposition now exist in the United States of America, in the form of a
Cabinet member, Michael Chertoff, who is allowed to use his
legislatively- granted power to waive all U.S. law in order to
implement a failed anti-immigrant policy. That cannot be allowed to
go on any longer.
We the undersigned ask that Americans write their Congressional
Representatives as well as their President and demand that the impacts
of wall-building and militarization of the border be fully studied and
fully acknowledged, and that humane, affordable, wise and workable
solutions be found and implemented instead.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Detention facility for immigrant kids sued for abuse
By MICHELLE ROBERTS / Associated Press
Eight immigrant teenagers held at a facility for unaccompanied minors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming they were abused and denied access to attorneys.
The teens from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba were being held at the 122-bed facility run by Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. under a contract with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Undocumented minors caught by authorities in the United States fall under the care of ORR while their immigration cases are decided.
But Susan Watson, an attorney for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, said the teens were beaten and subjected to other excessive force in violation of their constitutional rights.
At least one teen was knocked unconscious, but complaints to facility administrators were ignored, according to the lawsuit.
Officials at Cornell also denied the teens access to attorneys by unnecessarily transferring them to other facilities before scheduled lawyer meetings, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit names Cornell and 15 employees along with three employees of ORR. It does not name ORR itself because the teens have not filed or exhausted their administrative claims against the agency, a requirement that must be fulfilled before the federal government can be sued.
Calls to officials at ORR and Cornell were not immediately returned Thursday. The allegations raised by the immigrant teens were not the first against Cornell. Arkansas fired Cornell from the operation of a juvenile facility in November 2006 after finding employees inappropriately injected youth with anti-psychotic medication to control behavior. And in September, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials removed 600 detainees from an Albuquerque, N.M., facility run by Cornell, citing failure to maintain safety, health and well-being standards there.
Portions © 2008 KENS 5 and the San Antonio Express-News.
Thursday, April 3, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
S.F. promotes services for illegal immigrants
Cecilia M. Vega, Chronicle Staff Writer
A series of new television and radio commercials, billboards and bus
shelter signs will soon go up around San Francisco advertising the fact
that the city by the bay is also a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.
City officials on Wednesday unveiled the $83,000 ad campaign, which
features images of smiling residents and the iconic city skyline and
spreads the message in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian.
Brochures, which will be handed out in public buildings like police
stations and hospitals, promise safe access to city services for the
undocumented and a don't-ask-don't-tell policy when it comes residency
"We are standing up to say to all of our residents: We don't care what
your status is," Mayor Gavin Newsom said. "We care that you, as a human
being, are a resident of our city and we want you to participate in the
life of our city."
Officials said the public awareness campaign was prompted in part by a
series of federal immigration raids around the region last year that left
undocumented immigrants hesitant to come forward to seek medical treatment
or report crimes, out of fear they might be deported.
But the campaign precedes the city's plan in August to begin issuing
municipal identification cards to city residents - regardless of whether
they are in the country legally. Officials said they not only want
immigrants to know about San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, they want
city workers, business owners and others to know the same.
"We're taking a big bite of the reality sandwich in admitting that there
are people who live here who may or may not have citizen status," said
Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who helped spearhead the ad campaign and who
represents the city's heavily Latino Mission District.
Police Chief Heather Fong said officers will report undocumented
immigrants if they have a felony arrest, but otherwise, "we do not work on
enforcing immigration laws."
San Francisco became a sanctuary city in 1989 and since then it has barred
city employees from helping Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents
with immigration investigations or arrests, unless help is required by a
federal or state law or a warrant.
It is the city's formal policy to not report illegal immigrants to federal
immigration agents when they visit public health clinics or hospitals,
enroll their children in school, report a crime to the police or seek
other city services or apply for benefits.
And while a number of cities around the country also call themselves
sanctuary cities, including San Jose and Oakland, Houston, Seattle,
Chicago and Miami, few - if any - have embarked on a widespread campaign
to advertise the fact.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani adamantly denied that New York is a
sanctuary city after he came under fire over the issue last year during
his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
"San Francisco clearly is going a step beyond most places in boasting
(about) and advertising this. Most cities kind of almost apologize to
their voters when they complain about it," said Mark Krikorian, executive
director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank
that supports restrictions on immigration.
Krikorian said San Francisco and other sanctuary cities are "openly
subverting the federal government's ability to protect the borders" by
extending protections to undocumented immigrants.
"They're making it as easy as they can for illegal immigrants to live in
San Francisco," he said.
Newsom, a Democrat who is considering running for California governor in
2010, made headlines last year when he said he would not allow city
department heads or "anyone associated with this city" to cooperate in
federal immigration raids. Wednesday he said no other issue he has
championed has received a more negative reaction from the public than his
sanctuary city stance - "and that includes gay marriage."
"Until we get it right in this country on immigration, until we come to
grips with the reality of newcomers from around the world ... then it is
appropriate to protect our citizens, to protect our residents and to
protect our families," Newsom said.
Newsom made the announcement in his City Hall office, alongside a
coalition of high-profile city leaders, from the police and fire chiefs to
city department heads and representatives from churches and community
The city recently created a position for an "immigrants rights
administrator" to work with city agencies so that employees understand the
sanctuary city policy and how to better serve immigrant communities.
City Administrator Ed Lee called San Francisco's new sanctuary city ad
campaign "not only the liberal thing to do, it's the responsible thing."
E-mail Cecilia M. Vega at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2008 SF Chronicle
Friday, April 4, 2008
Those are the words that millions of Americans could hear if Congress passes the SAVE Act.
The SAVE Act would require every employer in the U.S. to use so-called "electronic employment verification," cross-checking all current and potential employees' citizenship status against databases that the government itself knows are filled with errors and inaccuracies.
And what if the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) get it wrong and can't verify a person's citizenship or right to work using their buggy database? Tough luck. That person is out of a job, with no right to appeal. This is unacceptable, and un-constitutional.
Tell your representative you oppose any bill with electronic employment verification.
The SSA estimates its records contain at least 17.8 million errors, of which 12.7 million involve U.S. citizens. Bills with mandatory employment verification, including the SAVE Act (H.R. 4088), contain no assurances that government databases will be accurate and updated, no privacy protections for the vast amounts of personal information to be handled by employers and absolutely no recourse for workers who are wrongfully denied employment.
Take Action: Tell your representative to protect Americans' right to work.
Thank you for defending our right to privacy and protecting everyone's right to work.