A critical analysis of each of the points in the 10 Point Plan on immigration recently proposed by Democratic candidates running in Prince William for the House of Delegates demonstrates that, like the Republican leadership plan that preceded it, it is largely poll driven and poorly thought out and reveals little that can fairly be described as progressive "leadership" on this important issue:
1. Punish employers that knowingly hire illegal immigrants by imposing fines up to $10,000 per illegal employee.The bottom line here is that these proposals are neither well thought out nor remotely progressive.
Federal law enacted in 1986 explicitly and completely preempts any state or local action to punish employers for hiring undocumented workers. That power is expressly reserved to the federal government. If these "enforce the laws" candidates are proposing state legislative action, it's unconstitutional. If they are seeking to influence Congress, they need to be going to Capitol Hill.
2. Give employers the tools to assess the legal status of their employees.
Employers are currently required by federal and state law (whether constitutionally enforceable or not) to obtain documentation from every employee regarding their right to work in the United States. Employers must complete and maintain in their records an I-9 on every employee. Any employer who hasn't already "assessed" the legal status of their employees is violating the law. Employers have been asking for a biometric and electronic system for verification for some time, but the federal government is a long way from providing that. The current employment verification system is not reliable and returns many false positives. That's part of the reason why the federal courts have held up the implementation of the President's new initiative on "no match" letters from the Social Security Administration. For more on this go to the website of the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce. Bottom line here, Congress is the hold up on giving employers a useful electronic/biometric system, and the state legislature is without authority to act.
3. Make a federal conviction for hiring illegal aliens grounds for suspension of a Virginia business license.
What kind of "business license" are we talking about here? BPOL, which is really an application to pay taxes on business gross revenues? Are we saying suspend their payment of taxes, too? Professional/contractor licenses? Corporate recognition and authorization to do business by the SCC? Environmental permits? Do we mean that Smithfield and Tyson who have plead guilty to violations in other states must stop doing business in VA? For how long? What will they have to do to end the "suspension"? Do conviction for paper work violations (which are many) count here? Convictions for actions taken in Virginia? in other states? Suspended for how long? Until what happens? What happens to the other legally employed workers and their families who are dependent on the company for their livelihood/health insurance? Will they get unemployment compensation/other state compensation while they are out of work?
4. Allow enforcement officials to work with the Virginia Employment Commission to verify employment status.
Federal immigration officers have full access to every state and local agency and employer under federal law. VEC maintains no records on the legal status of employees. It only has records on employers who pay taxes into the system and the unemployed. Unemployment compensation has been off limits to undocumented workers in Virginia since the 80's.
5. Fine landlords for knowingly renting property to illegal immigrants.
How will landlords "know" this information? Determining someone's legal status is a complex endeavor that requires significant training. Will landlords be training every rental agent to be an immigration expert? If not, why shouldn't we expect that landlords faced with this dilemma will simply stop renting to anyone who "looks" or "talks" like an "immigrant"? Will Virginia's fair housing agency be beefed up to deal with increasing numbers of possible complaints of discrimination based on race or ethnicity? While we're at it, why not propose punishing real estate agents who don't ascertain the legal status of buyers/sellers, homeowners who sell their homes to someone they know isn't here legally, banks that finance mortgages for people without determining legal status? Are we only going after landlords because we think that the "problem" of unlawful immigration only extends to poor people who can't afford to buy property and shutting down their access to rental housing will force them out of the community. Similar proposals related to housing rental have already been declared illegal in lawsuits brought in Pennsylvania and other states. If the issue here is compliance with the "rule of law," why are "Democrats" proposing something that is clearly unconstitutional and will lead to ethnic and racial profiling?
6. Cut off in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
There is NO evidence that ANY person who is undocumented is receiving in-state tuition. This is a sham proposal that feeds a myth rather than educates citizens about the facts. Virginia has a very exacting system applicable to everyone seeking in-state tuition that requires proof of domicile ... which no person here unlawfully can meet. Virginia colleges and universities have gone to court to protect their right and practice of denying even admission to anyone who is not here legally (even at unsubsidized out of state rates). So, suggesting that we need to "cut off" something that isn't flowing is the height of political opportunism and poll driven campaigning whether it is proposed by Democrats or Republicans.
7. Increase punishment for counterfeit drivers' licenses and identification fraud.
The legislature has already acted to pass new laws and increase penalties for these criminal acts. Forging public records is a class 4 felony; identity theft is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor, Class 5 or Class 6 felony depending on the facts of the case. Forgery is a Class 5 felony. Manufacturing a false drivers' license can be prosecuted as a forgery or as a specific offense as a Class 1 misdemeanor (even if you are a college student making your own fake ID). What are these candidates suggesting that hasn't already been done?
8. Increase resources for state and local enforcement officials to make sure immigration laws are enforced.
Virginians for Sensible Community Policing Efforts (VA-SCOPE), a broad coalition of organizations and individuals concerned about community safety, continues to oppose local enforcement of immigration laws because of the real threat to public safety of local action that discourages victim/witness cooperation with police. Focusing on identifying criminal aliens in jail/prison and ensuring that they are deported after serving their sentences is one thing. Equating all local police with federal immigration authorities has been shown to diminish everyone's safety rather than increase it. Accepting this federal responsibility is accepting a de facto unfunded federal mandate. Reallocating state 599 money from fighting gangs and investigating and prosecuting violent crime to enforcing immigration laws (which are largely civil in nature), as some have suggested, will not make us safer. And, focusing on immigration as the law enforcement issue when the facts show that crime in NOVA communities has gone down as immigrant populations have increased makes no sense. There are issues that do deserve additional resources ... community initiatives to address overcrowding, transportation and other growth impelled problems ... but suggesting that immigration is the premiere problem begs the response that leaders who are incapable of resolving the issues facing communities as a result of their failure to implement sensible growth management policies are choosing to scapegoat immigrants to divert attention from their leadership failures.
9. Check the legal resident status of all inmates currently in Virginia jails.
This has been the law in Virginia since the 50's: "Whenever any person is committed to a correctional facility, it shall be the duty of the director, sheriff or other officer in charge of such facility to inquire as to whether the person is a citizen of the United States, and if he is not, such director, sheriff or other officer shall inquire as to the person's alien status." A number of sheriffs surveyed recently by the Crime Commission indicated that they are not in compliance with this "rule of law."
10. Confirm the legal presence of all persons lawfully convicted of a crime in the U.S. via the U.S. ICE database.
ICE databases do not include any information about US citizens nor do they include any information about persons who enter the US unlawfully who have not yet been identified or linked into the system. So, a "no hit" on the ICE system can be either a citizen or an as yet unidentified unauthorized alien. Everyone who is admitted to a jail or prison in Virginia is already required to be checked for citizenship status. The means for doing this includes interviews, document requests (birth certificates, social security cares), etc. rather than reliance on any particular data base.
Is this the kind of policy agenda we hope for when we talk of electing Democratic majorities in the legislature and "turning Virginia blue"?