Thursday, March 30, 2006

Increasing Penalties for Corporations That Hire Illegals Won't Work


Earl wrote some very interesting well-thought out comments in my last post and I want to address this publicly because I have a long answer. I can tell he really cares about this issue and is looking for some sane solutions, as we all are. Earl, please don't think I am picking on you. I'm not, you've been asking all the right questions, thinking outside the box. It's the box that's broke, not you.

Earl, I have been reading and hearing others speak about about putting more pressure on the corporations not to hire illegal immigrant not only from you, but from news sources. Many hope that increasing the penalties on companies will stop them from hiring illegal immigrants. In my previous blog, Earl stated:
Glenda, what you say is probably right if you're talking about local law enforcement. This has to be handled by the Feds, you've got the payroll taxes that the companies pay, and you have the worker's W2s and you have a chance to check for valid social secuirity numbers with SSA. Thats just off the top of my head. The tax data, etc could be mined like the NSA mines telephone and the internet. With a stiff penalty, the corporations would cut back drasticly if punishment was certain. Trying to fake tax and other reports, which could include what documents they examined to check for illegals, the feds have a paper trail that would/could be treated like perjury. If new paperwork would help, then mandate that it be done.

Everyone would need to get serious and work on some solution instead of making points for the next election.
God, I feel so cynical. See, you are right. That SHOULD work and every logical fiber of my being wants to agree. However, although I wish your idea would work, here's why I think it won't. Please tell me if I am wrong.

You are half-right, the Feds would have to handle prosecuting companies who hire illegal workers when it crossed state borders, but the states would have the right to prosecute within the state if they chose to write their own law because that’s how it works. And it would be a nightmare unless there was some SERIOUS policy change.

Let me tell you about a trafficking case I was peripherally involved with recently in a series of meeting I attend over at the FBI office.

Human trafficking is a federal offense, but Texas happened to be one of the first states to pass a statewide anti-human trafficking law, which means it can no be handled, sort of, on a local level.

So, we had this case in Austin where a female trafficker was keeping immigrant women locked up in a house and they were forced into prostitution. She had their papers and they could not leave and they were treated in a horrible unimaginable way.

The local law enforcement, having never investigated prostitution through this particular lens, because the state law was new, asked the Feds to do it. The Feds said no, they were too busy. My impression is that the Feds tend to like to get involved in the glamorous cases that end up on TV.

But the Feds were in a mood to share so they handed over their 600 page book on protocol for prosecuting this case which was bigger than a metropolitan phone book. The local law enforcement freaked because they took one look at this set of federal immigration rules, and found they had no one with the time to take it on. Most of the officers were handling so many cases, that they could not even deal with their current caseload.

Because immigration law is very complicated. In immigrant abuse cases, you must get the immigrants to agree to help in the prosecution so you have viable witnesses or there is no case. There usually needs to be translators involved which is costly. If children are involved and some of the forced prostitution cases here have involved young teens, well, minors have to be housed in separate federally designated child facilities. There is one in Houston.

T Visas or U Visas must be issued by the Feds to keep the immigrants here legally to testify in a trial that might be 2 years down the road. They have to be housed, and fed, but sometimes they get antsy and want to bolt, to move on with their life. Or the corporation pays them off to keep quiet. Or the traffickers get to them and tell them they know where their families live and they will kill them back in their homeland if they testify. And immigrants don’t trust the police, because back where they came from, they are all corrupt, so why should they trust or cooperate with them?

So many of the human trafficking cases are pled down, to a lesser crime, like prostitution. In fact, over 95% of all criminal cases in Texas are pled down to alesser offense and I bet you would be shocked to see the numbers in your state. You can go here in Texas and get the open court records and check it out. The reason they are pled down is $$$. It costs too much $ to prosecute all the crimes in this country.

Corporations, of course, know this, and can easily beat most court systems. And the laws passed by the Congress will not take on big business, because the lobbyists make sure of that.

Additionally, there are not enough federal or state prosecutors to take on these cases and not enough $ to fight them and not enough will to hire the law enforcement and crack prosecution teams we need to do this right.

So Big Business has to pay for 2% of the workers when they get caught, they still make millions on the others that are never discovered. Oh, yeah and paperwork without immigrant witnesses would not make a case against a crack defense attorney, which the corporations would assuredly have. Now small businesses are already required to check documentation to make sure their employees are legal, and that documentaion can also be checked, but it doesn't stop the problem. How many people would we have to hire to check every W-2 and social security number? Don't think the money will show up for that venture either. Hell, we can't even catch all those who cheat on their tax returns.

And that’s why I don’t think that pushing up the penalty on companies who hire illegals would really make any difference unless we just want another "feel good" law in place.

10 Comments:

At 6:28 PM, Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

It is a stickler of a problem, for sure. Maybe that's why Bush is trying to play both sides of the fence.

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous earl bockenfeld said...

Glenda, I'll try to answer as many of your questions as I can. The immigration problem is horribly complicated, as you said. I don't understand the immigration situation first hand, but I was a computer programmer who designed computer systems to solve company procedures and problems. I think a system can be planned that will handle 80-90% of the situation. BUT it would need to be implemented properly and intelligently. FEMA under Clinton was one of the most successful federal program, and under Bush & Brownie, it was one of the worst. So first, I take management, like FEMA under Clinton, as a given. Secondly, the situation needs to be at a crisis point so that everybody admits that it must be solved now, any and and all solutions will be expensive and a consensus could be built around the best solution that meets all the objectives, secures the borders, provides temp worker permits and solves the current undocumented people who are here now.

With the Feds, especially the FBI, passing them work and they'll do either a poor job or not do it at all. The Feds that are handling this has to have it as a full-time mission. Probably the immigration dept. within HS with investigation and legal people. Most desirable would the ability to access FINES from corporations without a trial. That would make the punishment swift and painful. I don't know if immigration now handles all the visas or not, at one time the State department did visas. The Visa process is primitive and needs advanced computer help with photo and finger-print ID, and means to keep people from getting duplicates with different names. This would mean enlarging immigration with more than just border-guards. Again who does it doesn't matter just that it gets done. When a corporation messes with their finanical numbers, the Feds don't take em to court with a lengthy trial, they fine em and make them pay penalties.

Checking W2s, SSN and tax records is a computer job not a manual job. Our NSA now stores every phone conversation in the world and scans them with a program that triggers on key words, as well as scans all the internet and email for those key words. Scanning language is many times harder than what this would involve. This would not be a thing where you set up a department and then ignore it or just let it go along it's merry way. You set it up as a work-in-progress and drop or change the pieces that aren't working.

It's hard to be optimistic now with the way government is working, but I know what government programs can do. I'm now living on social security, I learned a trade while in the Navy, and attended college under the GI Bill, I watched the US go to the moon, and saw FEMA relieve suffering and deal with disasters. This is something that the government can do if it has the will and the right kind of managers. I hope this helps you understand why I think that immigration can be solved, and how I could see it happening. I realize that you could look at the situation and feel it's hopeless. I'm discouraged by all the talk about a Berlin-wall lined with spotlights and men with machine-guns. Thats part of the reason I feel compelled to try to come with more realistic and humane solutions.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger Ellie said...

those are chilling statistics about how many trials get pled out in texas. and the fact that they get pled out because of lack of money is even scarier.

immigration is a very complex problem. I tend to agree with your cynical view more, because honestly I don't think the Bush administration cares. They probably are for immigrant workers because it gives the big corporations more money, and messes up the economy even more. Its not like they care about worker's jobs...example: outsourcing. However, more and more people are starting to talk about immigration, so Bush may decide to come out strong on it and actually do something good for the country.

also, I don't know too much about computer programs or taxes, but I believe that there should be one way to check whether the tax forms were from immigrants or citizens. There are many ways to cheat on your taxes, so that is harder to check for. There should be some way of just running the social security number and checking it against the name, or something like that.

 
At 7:55 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Earl,
Don't be afraid to talk tech to me, I'm savvy enough and my husband is a programmer. :) I have no doubt that a database would be able to handle it. So let me try to wrap my head around your idea.

Thought: And then when the Wal-Marts were cowed by the datafear, what would stop them from hiring illegals through temp or 3rd party contractors, so they could continue to claim they knew nothing about their legal status?

I dunno, maybe I've just worked in this field so long that it seems like politics has sucked every shred of good out of government and I wonder if we'll ever be able to get our government to do anything noble again and look at it and feel genuine pride.

I also am coming to wonder more and more if there will actually be anything done at all, now that the Sleeping Latino Giant has awakened.

 
At 8:59 PM, Anonymous earl bockenfeld said...

Glenda,
I don't have a answer as yet for a day worker being paid cash to do house cleaning or yard work. But to my mind the temp or 3rd party contractors should have the same reporting obligations as the Wal-Marts.

Ok, on the databases, checking for funny identity. If two people have the same SSN, or have ever had the same SSN, that would raise a flag. This actually happened only once. Usually the fake SS card makers just put in any made-up number. The database can be scanned for SSN that have never been issued, raising another flag. The results of these two scans would be my starting point, and I would link them to their employer, and send an investigator to each company to check just on employees with the flagged SSN numbers. If those employees were illegals, then the companies would take notice very fast. Nothing like a road block where everyone gets stopped and checked, but go to a suspected employer and check on a select list of SSNs. Employees are responsible for checking for illegals in their hires, I would force that they report on what IDs they checked to verify the employees were legal. Fake reporting of that data would be one more charge on them if they were using illegals.

Because of all the identity thief, the credit card banks are someday going to stop eating that expense, or passing it on. Today, identity is based on a birth certificate, SSN, Driver's license and finally a death certificate. But none of these things are tied together, these records are all local and usually all over the country. If you were born in New York and died in California, your name could be on any number of drivers licenses and SSNs being used by 10s to 100s of people. A single ID, that includes whats called biometrics, fingerprints, rectinal scans, and finally matchs birth/death certificates so that birth certificates can't be used over and over. Each ID card can to made identify ONE individual who is the person holding that card. That card then must replace the SSN as the main means of indentication and correspond with overlapping ID info on the drivers license, maybe with biometric info also. Our national identify system has grown hodge-podge, and that makes it very easy to create fake IDs today and msut be stopped.

The sleeping Latino Giant is awake, but that kind of counter balances the Rambo fence builders. If there's a stalemate, nothing gets done or something that really will serve everybody. It's bad that the uproar is coming in an election year and everyone wants a quick-fix. I sense you are losing confidence in the system, I share that as far as BushCo is concerned. I would be interested if you or your husband thought that computer searchs for illegals couldn't be tracks through current government records.

 
At 9:09 PM, Blogger CTB said...

The case near me did involve Wal Mart's denial due to third party contractor relationships but that is something easily solved by some form of accountability- and verification on the part of the company doing the contracting. But then again why would it be ok to have third party contractors hire children in foreign countries to circumvent the rules?

They do this all the time, not a huge difference in my view.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger thepoetryman said...

Child slavery will be the plank wedged within the eye of any company claiming ignorance! To hell with them! I live in Walmart Country (Ark.)...I sense the beast everywhere I turn...

By the way, Glenda, i am going to add you to my favorites (Echoing Voices) section... Hope you do not mind? :>)

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Why, thank you, Poetryman, that is an honor, you've got some powerful poetry going on.

 
At 4:31 PM, Anonymous LILY BRANFORD said...

Sooner or later- we all muct reckon with poetryman.

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger glenda said...

That and taxes. :0)

 

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