Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Immigrant Song

Levy gets fight over workers

A labor union that was one of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's largest campaign contributors yesterday denounced as "discriminatory" his proposed law involving contractors and undocumented immigrants.

The organization, 1199SEIU United Health Care Workers East, said through a spokeswoman that Levy has gone too far in his campaign on illegal immigration.

The proposed law would require town governments, businesses, social-service agencies and other groups with contracts from Suffolk County to file a sworn affidavit annually vouching that their employees are legally in the United States.
It's interesting that a union, whose workers would conceivably get more work should illegal immigration be stopped, is stepping up to criticize this latest effort to criminalize people who are living the grand tradition of the American immigrant dream, but more on that in a second.

First off, it's bad enough that an employer has to certify his employees' legal statuses. The logical extension of this will be such other social "ickies" as pedophilia, and other morals code violations. After all, we wouldn't want a plumber who molests kids working on our 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch in Hicksville, now would we? At what point does society draw a line and allow people to make a living? Or would we prefer....what? Welfare? Would you want an illegal immigrant or a pedophile on welfare, living off your income? Or just living off the fruits of what they can steal (thus hiking the crime rate and your homeowner's insurance)? What's the solution?

Second, the enormous burden of annually certifying each and every employee will raise all sorts of hackles in the business community. Currently, each waged employee has to file an I-9 and a W4 form. That ought to be good enough (after all, you can't become an illegal immigrant in this country. You arrive as one.)

Third, the mere fact that we're criminalizing a behavior that's going to exist (and has no real impact on anything in the country) means we are deducting law enforcement efforts from bigger things, like, say, finding the 11 Egyptian students who have disappeared after entering this country on student visas. Legally.

Now, onto the union concerns: this is not about a sudden insight that protectionism for the jobs they might obtain is a bad thing (which to a degree, it is), but it's about understanding the nature of the union.

1199 SEIU is a service employees union, and covers such diverse service industries as the hotel trades to nursing. What the 1199 leadership understands is, to raise suspicions on any immigrant is to raise suspicions of them all. And guess who makes up the bulk of the membership in 1199, a union comprised of the lowest wage union workers in America?

You guessed it: immigrants! By taking this stance now, 1199 has effectively said you're hurting our members by trying to hurt illegal immigrants. Prejudice is not dead in this country and it's foolish to believe that it is, or will be anytime soon.

Bravo, 1199!