HSA’s Chertoff: The Heat and Raids will Continue

Yesterday was a busy immigration day in Washington: not only did the President finally invoke the long-promised mandate of requiring E-Verify from all federal contractors, but two of his execs hunkered down for a rather verbose press conference dubbed the "State of Immigration Address".  Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff (a/k/a Bush's lead immigration enforcer) and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez (who appeared more because of his surname than because of his contributions to the issue at hand) waxed poetic on a bunch of stuff, so I'm culling the "Employer Relevant" nitty gritty for you from the transcript, write me if you have questions…

On 2-year EADs– Employment Authorization Documents will be issued with a 2 year validity period beginning later this month, doubling the current limit of one year and making stressed out adjustees a lot less stressed.  Good job, Mr. Chertoff, given that the promised processing timeframes are rarely realized and a lot of folks have to sit out employment while waiting for the renewal of timely filed EAD extensions.

On State Legislation- Chertoff cited the state of Washington, which is
currently issuing its own version of an approved, enhanced driver’s
license that will be acceptable at the border. New York has announced
that it has completed its business plan to begin producing those
enhanced driver’s licenses. [Comment: I remember when the concept of federal sovereignty would have made this state involvement an outrage in D.C.; talk about a tacit admission of federal failure in immigration…!]

On E-Verify: Mr. Chertoff was positively giddy about the system, calling it "a tremendous success".  Unfortunately, his reasoning is a little loopy, and he seems to fail to grasp the connection between increased E-Verify usage and the fact that HSA has terrorized the nation with raids, insuring front page comments.  His words:

"The proof of the pudding is the
marketplace itself. Every week on average, about a thousand new
employers join this program. And I will tell you that at this point, I
will estimate that is almost — maybe actually more than ten percent of
the new hires being hired in the United States are currently being run
through this E-Verify system…The system
works. Of those workers who are legal, 99.5 percent of them roughly are
verified essentially instantaneously. And if those workers who have a
mismatch — legal workers who we estimate to be about a half a percent,
they are able generally to resolve their issue within less than two

[NOTE: I respectfully disagree with Mr. Chertoff and so do all the organizations tracking the system, but it IS improving.  Unfortunately, these numbers still represent a small fraction of U.S. employers and E-Verify remains a complex and user-unfriendly application; that's precisely the reason behind the rush to implement full-spectrum compliance tools such as our own i9 Advantage]

On Raids, Enforcement, and Nailing the Big Guys:  If there was any hope that in its waning months the Bush Administration was going to lay off the raids and focus on improving employer education, Mr. Chertoff calmly and quickly dispensed with any such illusions:

"Finally, we are going to continue to keep the pressure up on
employers and on illegal aliens by bringing significant cases. As you
know recently we brought a case against a meat-processing operation in
Iowa. Almost 300 immigrants, illegal immigrants pleaded guilty to using
fraudulent documents to get their jobs in an Iowa meat-processing
plant. That means they took the identities of innocent Americans and
misused those identities. And at least in some instances, caused damage
to the innocent American whose identity was stolen.

For those who say that we are only focusing on the illegal workers
themselves, I point out that last year we had over 90 employers, or
those in a supervisory chain who were convicted of crimes. We have had
one CEO or President of a company sent to jail for 10 years.
We have
had recent conviction of a union official from the United Food and
Commercial Workers union for his involvement with the activities at –.

We will continue to pursue employers. I know these cases take a
little bit longer. There is a — it is always more difficult to work up
the chain. I can tell you as an old organized crime prosecutor and as
an old drug prosecutor, you always start with the bottom ring first,
then you work your way up to the top ring. But I guarantee we are
continuing to work on making cases against that top ring and we will do
so whenever the evidence supports bringing that kind of a case.
"[Emphasis supplied]

No punches pulled there, eh?  Here are some interesting excepts from the Q&A that followed:

Question: Secretary Chertoff, about the executive order on
E-verify for federal contractors, do you have somewhat of a number of
how many contractors that would involve and how many workers

Secretary Chertoff: I think we were potentially talking about
hundreds of thousands, if not millions of workers.
This is going to
apply to contractors who are getting a new contract. Once this comes
into effect they're going to be required to run all their employees
through E-verify. Or if they have a contract and they're going to bring
new employees onto the contract, they're going to have to do that.

Since I can' t predict what contracting is going to be like in the
next two or three years I can't give you a precise number, but it's
going to be at a minimum hundreds of thousands and I think maybe
millions of people will be run through that program

Question: Can you tell us whether this will cover subcontractors as well contractors?

Secretary Chertoff: I think now we're getting into exactly
the area where we're going to wind up having to write the detailed
regulation. There are all kinds of issues about what the contracting
entity is, so we're going to get into all kinds of topics that will be
fascinating for the lawyers. But I'm not going to try to give the legal
analysis from up here.

The basic principle is this: if you're working for the federal
government and you're being paid with federal taxes you ought to make
sure that you're employees are obeying federal law when it comes to
their employment authorization
, and this executive order as implemented
in detail by the regulation will do precisely that.

Question: One of — for one, on the contractors, number one, the E-verify is voluntary? Is it voluntary for them or is it —

Secretary Chertoff: No.

Question: — going to be mandatory for them?

Secretary Chertoff: No, for federal contractors who are
getting new contracts who are putting new employees on existing
contracts, it's going to be — it's not going to be voluntary. They
will have to do it as a condition of getting the contract