Require companies to check for illegals
The Department of Homeland Security plans to increase its effort to find companies that hire illegal aliens.
THE federal government has begun a crackdown on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants so they can exploit cheap labor. Changes in the law are needed to facilitate a wider net to include employers who are blithely negligent in determining their workers' legal status.
Immigration officials said they detained 1,187 immigrants working for Netherlands-based IFCO Systems North American, a pallet supply company, at plants in 26 states. Among those arrests were seven current and former lower-level IFCO managers and a foreman facing felony conspiracy charges of knowingly hiring illegals. No senior executives were charged.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said further charges might be filed. He plans to increase the number of investigators and work-site enforcement agents, but said he needs "careful access to Social Security data" to detect obvious violations by employers. The law now forbids both the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service from sharing information with Homeland Security.
More than half of IFCO's 5,800 employees last year had invalid or mismatched Social Security numbers, according to the government. The case began after some workers in New York were seen ripping up their W-2 forms because they had no intention of filing tax returns.
Immigration reform bills before Congress would require employers to use an electronic system to be created for checking Social Security or workers identification numbers. A pilot program created in 1997 is now used by 5,000 employers, but it is voluntary.
The mandatory program is included in the House-passed bill, and a similar provision is included in a bill to be taken up with the Senate's return to session today. Disagreement about whether to provide the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship should not deter Congress from requiring companies to determine the legality of their workforces.
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