Friday, October 19, 2007

Homeland Security or Jobs 'n' Things

A while back I received the following email:

Hi June,

I'm almost done with your book, it has been and will continue to be extremely helpful. Very well put together, great job!!!

Now for my question: My husband and I were recently replaced by illegal immigrants on our w-2 job (janitors). My question is, how can an employer get away with hiring illegals that have no ss#'s, no drivers licences, or licences from another state.

Thank you June.

Yvonne, from Urbana, Illinois

Even though this is a question about W-2 people and not indies it certainly could apply in self-employment situations. And I thought the answer to Yvonne's question was going to be quick -- something like: They get away with it because nobody notifies the authorities. Then I was going to tell her to call her local Department of Labor (DOL).

I expected a quick confirmation of my planned response by a call to my local DOL. And that's where the marathon started.

If you have been replaced by an undocumented worker – or, the term I prefer, an illegal alien – there isn't much you can do about it. Neither the federal government nor most of the state governments are doing anything to protect American workers from getting pushed out of jobs by cheaper illegal alien workers.

Once upon a time government was a friend of the working people – adopted laws that helped them to organize, protected them against unfair employment practices. That feels like a long time ago. In fact “the Department of Labor” born in the New Deal, would be better given the 21st century name of "jobs 'n' things." In Illinois, state of my blog visitor -- the name has been changed to the Department of Labor and Human Rights. In New Mexico the DOL has been renamed the Department of Workforce Solutions.


And if you look up state websites for the department with oversight over labor matters, there’s nothing about undocumented workers to be found on them. In most states there appears to be no agency that has any jurisdiction over them.

You’ll find, for instance, a notice posted on the website of the North Carolina Department of Labor – that it “does not have anything to do with immigration or the working of documented or undocumented alien workers. For general questions or information on immigration, you need to contact the North Carolina Employment Security Commission's (ESC) Immigration Section in Raleigh.”

But when my office called the North Carolina Commission, we were told that it has nothing to do with undocumented workers either.

But, if you are the sort who refuses to give up, and you’ve lost a janitorial gig in Illinois, try the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL). According to Anjali Julka, who handles departmental press relations, you can file a complaint.

“If they feel that they’ve lost their jobs for reasons that might fall under our authority, they can file a complaint and see what action we can take.” A formal complaint, she said, “would certainly prompt the department to review their case at least and see if it’s not us that can help them, who can.”

Minimum wage violations or failure to pay overtime may be valid issues, Ms. Julka noted.

A complaint form can be printed from the IDOL website and mailed into the Department, or the forms can be picked up at any IDOL location, or can be requested by telephone.

“An investigation by our department would determine if they have been wrongfully terminated,” Ms. Julka said. “There’s no need to provide any information other than what’s printed on the form.”

And if you don’t mind whether your grievance at being replaced by illegal aliens might take a decade or so to clear up, you have one more long shot – you can report the case to Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE], a bureau of the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Don’t hold your breath, though. A Senior Special Agent in an ICE regional office lamented that he has two Special Agents to cover an 18-county area in one of the fastest-growing areas for undocumented workers in America.

The agent (speaking on the condition of anonymity) said that “the government is overwhelmed” because of a shortage of people in Homeland Security. He suggested that the aggrieved parties try anyway.

How long would it take to get action? That, he responded, depends on the priorities of the local office. “The report is taken and it’s taken to the field and prioritized. Maybe never, maybe immediately,” he said. “National security-related issues, probably immediately. Politically-motivated issues, maybe quicker. If you could only spend a day in your local ICE office and see what happens, the volume of work and what kind of resources they have, you’d have a good understanding. But this isn't like the private sector where when you get a demand for your product you increase your manpower.. . . If were up to me we’d have an agent for every illegal alien. Well, maybe one for every thousand.”

So, it was asked, an average time wouldn't mean much because much depends on the urgency of the matter? “Yes, an Osama bin Laden sighting would take precedence. . . . and unfortunately we don’t have the physical manpower to address every single issue. And it might be a supervisor’s decision to not assign it to somebody.. . . I wish I had a good answer.”

New Mexico Workforce Solutions (formerly Labor Department) -- its vision statement saying, "The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions is a World-Class, market-driven workforce delivery system that prepares New Mexico job seekers to meet current and emerging needs of New Mexico businesses" -- appears eager to welcome willing hands from south of the border. A Workforce Solutions official pointed out that Santa Fe has designated “a safe haven for illegal immigrants – they can hang around there, they take them burritos in the morning, and employers come by and pick them to take them to day-labor jobs.”

Many illegal aliens work at construction sites. U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierrez comes on a news show every once in a while to tell us “that we have to face the fact that there are jobs that Americans are unwilling to do.” But I don’t think Americans decided that they don’t want construction work or janitorial work anymore. I think they’re being displaced by undocumented workers willing to take these jobs for much, much less money. That’s really what the undocumented workers issue is about, and in the long run it isn't good for American indies or for Americans generally.

1 comment:

magyart said...

Tired of illegal immigration ?

Only those Senators & Congressmen willing to co-sponsot the SAVE Act should be given our vote.

The Save Act forces all employers to verify social security numbers. It's an "interior enforcement" bill that this country needs.

Get more details at NumbersUSA and send a free fax to your elected reps. asking them to co-sponsor this revolutionaty new bill.

Contact Congress today. Thanks.