Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The SAVE Act

I received this letter regarding the SAVE Act from Representative Jim Matheson in my inbox the other day:
Dear Cameron,

Illegal immigration is an issue that has generated a lot of talk, but not enough action. I continue to look for ways for Congress to make progress on this issue. Recently, I signed onto a bill that I believe offers some common sense fixes to the flaws in our current system. The bill is the SAVE Act--Secure America through Verification and Enforcement.

Our current immigration system is broken. I am opposed to amnesty. People who try to play by the rules are often penalized. We don't know the identity or the whereabouts of millions of people who entered illegally. There is no transparency or accountability when people conduct business under the table.

I have long supported strong border enforcement, together with a viable guest worker program. I do not support amnesty. The SAVE Act's approach to combating illegal immigration has been endorsed by border security advocacy groups because of its strict emphasis on border security, employer verification and enforcement. Specifically the bill:

-Increases the number of Border Patrol agents by 8,000

-Creates a pilot program to increase aerial surveillance, satellite and equipment sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense

-Increases cooperation between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICW) and state and local law enforcement

-Provides employers with an inexpensive, quick and accurate way to verify employee eligibility

I recognize that many Utah businesses rely on immigrant workers and that an accountable guest worker program in which everyone plays by the same rules is essential. Currently, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses Web Basic Pilot or E-verify. Here's a description. Employers who participate submit information, including a Social Security number, over a secure connection to the Internet. If it checks out, the employer is notified. The system has strengths and weaknesses and improvements are being evaluated.

I will continue to be an advocate for immigration reform that addresses these important areas.


Jim Matheson
U.S. Representative
2nd District of Utah
Here's the text of the bill, which was introduced to the House by Rep. Heath Shuler. You can follow its progress at this website, which also links to other versions of the bill.

It seems to be very much an enforcement-laden bill, beefing up border security and eliminating much of the lawlessness that currently exists with illegal immigration. It would reduce the ability of illegal immigrants to use stolen or bogus social security numbers, and provide employers with a simple way to verify the work status of potential and current employees.

Enforcement, or the lack thereof, is what caused the last round of immigration reform to fail. Opponents worried that it amounted to nothing more than amnesty without fixing the problems that cause illegal immigration in the first place. "Enforcement First" was a standby of immigration reform advocates. So this bill seems to be in response to that call to action.

However, "Enforcement First" necessarily implies that there is more to do. Which seems to be Albert Ruiz's point in his NY Daily News column. He comments on a letter sent from the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform to Congress and explains,
The SAVE Act, among other measures, imposes mandatory electronic employment eligibility verification. It will screen out the undocumented farm labor force, but as the coalition points out, it does not address the question of who will take their place.

The reason is clear: Contrary to anti-immigration rhetoric, there are no throngs of domestic workers lining up at the farm gates to take over the jobs the undocumented have performed for years.
It's a very good point, and one that emphasizes the importance of remembering that enforcement can only be a first step. Once existing laws are consistently enforced, it is very likely that much of the US labor force will disappear.

If the SAVE Act is successful, the next question for Congress to answer is, what now?


Charles D said...

It seems to me we have to acknowledge two facts before considering any of the possible solutions to our immigration problems:
1) The immigrants would not be here if there weren't jobs available to them that pay significantly more than they can make in their home country.
2) We cannot identify and deport 12 million people without turning this nation into a police state and causing a serious labor shortage nationwide.

Employers hire undocumented immigrants because they can pay them less and ignore all the regulations about worker health and safety, and have no worries about unions. If we want to reduce the supply of jobs for these workers, it makes a lot more sense to stop harassing the workers and demand that the employers pay prevailing wages and benefits and obey all the same regulations that apply to citizen workers.

Such a step would reduce the supply of jobs for undocumented workers while also increasing the number of good jobs available to American workers. The next step would be to assist Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and the other countries that send most workers to reduce income disparity, protect local industry and agriculture, and protect worker rights.

We can dry up the supply over a few years, and then offer a path to citizenship for any undocumented worker already here who does not have a criminal record, and provide documents to them that would allow them to enter and leave the US to visit their families, etc.

We don't need a fence, we need sensible policies. The reason we have these 12 million undocumented workers now is that our businesses want cheap labor and our government has helped them get it. Let's stop that.

Cameron said...

1) The illegal immigrants would not be here if there was a better legal way to do it. They are obviously needed here as workers, so that's a glaring issue needing fixed.

2) If we shore up employment verification, as the SAVE act proposes to do, then no one will have to "identify and deport" anyone. Illegal immigrants will no longer be able to fill the jobs they currently do and some other avenue will have to be found.

I think it's possible to fix the immigration mess, and it seems like the SAVE act is a good first step. But it must be only the first step.

Unknown said...

I think this is a step in the right direction, but until Congress actually provides the funds (i.e. the Southern Border fence which has now been defunded and pushed aside) then all we're doing is spinning our wheels. But I like what Matheson is trying do. He just needs to start knockin' some heads together in the halls of Congress to get people off their butts and enforcing the laws in place.

Unknown said...

Oh and by the way, Merry Christmas, Cameron.