In tough economic times, life can be hard for employers in America’s low-wage sectors. Especially when it comes to complying with labor law. Fortunately, the government ensures that there’s always at least one group of workers for whom standards pretty much never apply. They’re called, fittingly, “undocumented.”
This year, several states have rolled out legislation to make the undocumented even more illegal. Bills in Alabama, Georgia and Indiana, modeled roughly after Arizona’s controversial racial profiling law, reflect the boilerplate lock’em up talking points: enabling profiling by police, criminalizing the mere appearance of an unauthorized immigrant as well as those who provide aid to them, and tightening restrictions on hiring. Although lawsuits have halted the implementation of these policies in some states, key court decisions have left intact provisions that deepen the divide between those with and without papers, relegating the undocumented—who work American farms, build American homes, and raise American children—to a law-free zone.
A Georgia court recently blocked the “papers please” provision of the state’s anti-immigrant bill on the grounds that using I.D.-checks to root out immigration violations would lead to an “end-run – not around federal criminal law – but around federal statutes defining the role of state and local officers in immigration enforcement.” So the state overstepped its bounds by criminalizing a federal civil offense.
At the same time, the court left intact a provision that would expand the use of a draconian I.D. screening system known as E-Verify. This is the Social Security Number-based data gauntlet that Washington has been haltingly trying to impose on employers and state governments for years (Congressional Republicans are pushing a bill to mandate the system nationwide, but it is currently used on a “volunteer” basis).
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