Sunday, September 5, 2010

No Green Card Required

A few posts ago, I mentioned that my favorite brother-in-law came from Argentina and that my wife is a Canadian citizen with permanent residency here in the United States. So I pay closer attention to the debates about immigration policy (and enforcement) than most people do. This issue isn't just a question of values or American ideals to me. It forms the very basis of my family.

The way the Obama administration has handled immigration -- particularly in terms of Arizona -- has always had a "through the looking glass" quality to me. Ignore sanctuary cities but sue Arizona for an anti-illegal immigration bill that not only mirrors the federal law but also provides even more protections than my wife has with the Feds? Federal agents don't even need "reasonable suspicion" and an encounter for another issue to ask my wife for documentation, which she's legally required to carry with her at all times, to prove her immigration status. (Small wonder the union representing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] agents voted unanimously that the ICE leadership has "abandoned the Agency’s core mission of enforcing United States immigration laws and providing for public safety, and have instead directed their attention to campaigning for policies and programs related to amnesty.")

Even so, I never thought that one morning I would actually be reading this:

Employers who hire illegal immigrants can be fined, but the Obama administration warned this week that they also can be fined for asking legal immigrants to show their green cards before hiring them.

The Justice Department's civil rights division sued the Maricopa County Community Colleges in Arizona, seeking damages from schools for having "intentionally committed document abuse discrimination."

Prior to this year, the local colleges in the Phoenix area asked job applicants who were not U.S. citizens to show a driver's license, a Social Security card and their permanent resident card, commonly called a green card.

The Justice Department said a valid driver's license and a Social Security card are usually sufficient to show that a person is authorized to work. Requesting a green card amounts to "immigration-related employment discrimination," said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Federal law forbids treating "authorized workers differently during the hiring process based on their citizenship status," Perez said. He said the department's Office of Special Counsel would bring legal actions against employers who impose "unnecessary and discriminatory hurdles to employment for work-authorized noncitizens."
Let me see if I have this right. If I hire a non-U.S. citizen and ask for verification that the person is legal to work in this country, I get sued by the federal government, because that's "document abuse discrinination." But if I hire a non-U.S. citizen and don't ask for verification and that person turns out not to be legal to work in this country, I get fined. So either way, I'm toast. Does that about cover it?

Then again, I'm heartened to read that the Department of Justice is also seeking damages on behalf of those who were so unfairly discriminated against because they were asked to show their green card or other work authorization by the Maricopa County Community Colleges before being hired. Because when my wife had a job lined up at a community college, Citizenship and Immigration Services never got around to processing her temporary work authorization, which we should have had a week or two (or three) after filing her paperwork, so the college wouldn't put her on the payroll until the actual green card came through months (and months) later. So maybe this is a happy day, because I never thought we had a chance to recoup those five-figures of lost income, but now Thomas E. Perez and the U.S. Department of Justice have our backs.

Oh, wait. My wife and I don't live in Arizona.

Never mind.