April 14, 2008

On the Border of Discussion

Justin Katz

Anybody who's truly interested in the immigration debate should skip Charles Bakst's typically useless column in yesterday's Providence Journal and turn instead to the Money & Business section, in which one can read John Kostrzewa's inquiry into the difficulties that the E-Verify mandate imposes on businesses:

To try to sort out some of the issues, I talked with Christine Cunneen, co-owner of Hire Image, a background-screening company based in Johnston.

She said that right now there are only 75 Rhode Island companies registered to use the E-Verify system.

Employers who want to use it have to sign up for a five- to six-hour online tutorial. Then the user has to pass a test showing mastery of the system. ...

Using the E-Verify system also opens the employer to an audit by the Department of Homeland Security.

Cunneen said the verification process can be confusing and cumbersome.

She added, "There have been some troubles with the system." For example, if a person gets married and the name hasn't been changed with Social Security, the E-Verify system may not verify the eligibility of the worker.

Kostrzewa's right that the entire debate has been conducted in an atmosphere of contentiousness and suspicion, although I'm not as quick to blame the governor; this fight's been long and broad in its approach. Consider this interesting nugget from an Andy Smith piece on the problems that Congressional inaction on immigration (specifically with reference to temporary work visas) is creating for Rhode Island's tourism industry (emphasis added):

In the House of Representatives, Langevin said he is also cosponsor of legislation that would allow more H-2B workers into the country. "I've heard a lot from the business community [in Rhode Island] and this is a major priority for them," he said. "This is an issue that directly affects the tourism and hospitality business in Rhode Island."

Langevin said the Hispanic Caucus would prefer the "whole package" when it comes to immigration reform, although he stopped short of saying the caucus was opposed to H-2B measures. He said the House bill, currently in the Judiciary Committee, may shortly be the subject of hearings in the immigration subcommittee.

That sounds like a little bit of the ol' "un pueblo unido" — in this case holding up desirable, even necessary, legal immigration legislation in order to gain leverage for the only part of the larger issue that encounters real disagreement: illegal immigration. One finds it necessary to continually consider which side benefits from the conflation of the illegal with the legal, and doing so makes it increasingly clear that xenophobia is not the villain.

I'm not sure whether to find it surprising that Kostrzewa finds the following significant:

During last week's debate, 25 Latino and Anglo business owners, bankers, buyers, managers and consultants gathered at the old Hope Club in Providence at a networking meeting of the World Affairs Council Of Rhode Island, a nonprofit group.

They shared and discussed ideas about marketing, media and how to reach customers to expand their businesses. They laughed about language mistakes when people from different cultures interact. They all left a lot smarter, with new ideas for making money.

The true contrast of this vignette with the governor's travails isn't so much one of facts versus no facts as it is one of joint cooperation toward a separate end versus wrangling over policy with different ends in view. When business people — any people — get together, superficialities like language recede into the scenery. When special interests and racial demagogues refuse to treat illegal immigration as a discrete issue, they make superficialities central in order to hide the important distinctions.

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Found Kostrzewa's column full of tiresome talking points and written in the typical Rhode Island nasal whine. The ink isn't even dry on the Executive orders and everyone is whining about the burdens being placed on them.
Enough already! God this place is embarrassing.

Posted by: Tim at April 14, 2008 7:46 AM

The only thing missing from Bakst's piece was some Obama-like reference accusing those of us who oppose illegal immigration / amnesty of "clinging to guns and religion."

Memo to Charlie: just because they're in Rhode Island doesn't mean that they're Rhode Islanders or "one of us" - they're trespassers here illegally, so they CAN'T be Rhode Islanders or one of us.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at April 14, 2008 9:49 AM

Kostrzewa an enemt of the state? He's a business journalist. How many liberal business journalists are there, anyway?
The Providence Business News also came out against the gov's executive order. Can't blame Charlie Bakst for THAT.

Posted by: rhody at April 14, 2008 10:56 AM

I'd personally prefer a lot of the illegal aliens I encountered on my former job to Merrill C Bakst as a neighbor or friend.Bakst is the ultimate outsider- a mole faced nerd who probably got his lunch money taken on a regular basis.He is truly "alien" to normal Americans.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 14, 2008 11:47 AM

Bakst's colums are usefull only as they obviate the need to purchase ipecac to induce vomiting.

Posted by: Mike at April 14, 2008 1:49 PM

From my perspective, one of the major documented problems with Governor Donald L. Carcieri’s executive Order 08-01 is the directive requirement to use a person’s private “federal social security number” and public law suit liability not only directly to the Governor but also to the State of Rhode Island, Rhode Island State Police, Rhode Island Department of Administration, Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, Rhode Island Department of Corrections, Department of Homeland Security and the local business that comply with the executive order.

Also the request of Homeland Security to gain unrestricted access to the State of Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles records without permission as required by the Drivers Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2721 et. seq. (Public Law 103-322). Under the law, the State of Rhode Island must ask permission of the driver to release information. The unrestricted access without “individual’s permission” opens Rhode Island to law suits (watch for another check off box on DMV renewal forms.)

Contrary to the State of Rhode Island executive order, the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a and the Social Security Administration restrict use of social security numbers.

The Social Security Number (SSN) was created in 1936 as a nine-digit account number assigned by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for the purpose of administering the Social Security laws. SSNs were first intended for use exclusively by the federal government as a means of tracking earnings to determine the amount of Social Security taxes to credit to each worker's account. Over time, however, SSNs were permitted to be used for purposes unrelated to the administration of the Social Security system. For example, in 1961 Congress authorized the Internal Revenue Service to use SSNs as taxpayer identification numbers.

In response to growing concerns over the accumulation of massive amounts of personal information, Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974. Among other things, this Act makes it unlawful for a governmental agency to deny a right, benefit, or privilege merely because the individual refuses to disclose his SSN.

Section 7 of the Privacy Act further provides that any agency requesting an individual to disclose his SSN must "inform that individual whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it." At the time of its enactment, Congress recognized the dangers of widespread use of SSNs as universal identifiers. In its report supporting the adoption of this provision, the Senate Committee stated that the widespread use of SSNs as universal identifiers in the public and private sectors is "one of the most serious manifestations of privacy concerns in the Nation." Short of prohibiting the use of the SSN outright, the provision in the Privacy Act attempts to limit the use of the number to only those purposes where there is clear legal authority to collect the SSN. It was hoped that citizens, fully informed where the disclosure was not required by law and facing no loss of opportunity in failing to provide the SSN, would be unlikely to provide an SSN and institutions would not pursue the SSN as a form of identification.

Penalties for Violating the Federal Privacy Act of 1974:

Civil Remedies
The Privacy Act provides for both civil and criminal penalties for violating certain sections. If an agency refuses to amend an individual's record upon request, the individual can sue in civil court to have the record amended. In this case, the court can also award the individual reasonable attorney's fees and other litigation costs, to be paid by the United States.

If an agency refuses to allow an individual access to his records as required in subsection (d)(1), the individual can sue in civil court to have the records produced. The court that decides this suit will have the ability to review the records "in camera" (privately) to see if the agency has properly claimed one of the exemptions allowed to them. The court can also make the United States pay for reasonable attorney's fees.

If an agency has violated any other section of the Privacy Act, and a court finds that the violation is "intentional or willful," the court can make the United States pay to the individual actual damages suffered as a result of the violation (but in no case shall a person entitled to recovery receive less than the sum of $1,000), along with costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

Penalties for Violating the Privacy Act:

Criminal Penalties:
If any officer or employee of a government agency knowingly and willfully discloses personally identifiable information will be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined a maximum of $5,000. Also, if any agency employee or official willfully maintains a system of records without disclosing its existence and relevant details as specified above can be fined a maximum of $5,000. The same misdemeanor penalty (and $5,000
maximum fine) can be applied to anyone who knowingly and willfully requests an individual's record from an agency under false pretenses.

PLEASE BE ADVISED TERM “AGENCY” MEANS AN AGENCY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT such as Homeland Security not the State of Rhode Island however, civil suit may go forward for violations by the State of Rhode Island and private business knowingly violating federal law and possibly under State of Rhode Island General Law 11-49.2-1. "Rhode Island Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005."

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "E-Verify" program has been cited for returning a very high percentage of false identifications. Currently the agency will require more than 200,000 federal contractors to use E-Verify, an increase of more than 1,076 percent over the 17,000 employers currently registered in E-Verify. The system will use an "enhanced photograph capability" that will allow employers to check photographs in E-Verify databases. DHS will expand the number of databases E-Verify checks to include visa and passport databases; and the agency is asking states to "voluntarily" allow DHS access to their motor vehicle databases. DHS will require employers to fire employees if they were unable to resolve "no match" discrepancies within 90 days. If the employers do not terminate the workers' employment, the businesses would face fines of $11,000 or more. DHS also will raise fines against employers by 25 percent and increasingly use criminal action against employers, as opposed to administrative action.

So if you change jobs in the future, you must under go screening by the DHS and if a false “no match” is returned by using “YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER” you will be fired within 90 days if YOU can not clear what the computer and database information is reporting and may be subject to deportation to whatever country the system indicated.

One other thing that stands out about “E-Verify”, security of the information in electronic transfer and storage appears not to meet the minimum security requirements as dictated by federal law for protection of SSNs especially at the network, local non-federal government and local business level thus making sensitive information and SSN subject to tampering, partial or full loss and manipulation.

The net cast covers a lot more than was thought out!

Posted by: Ken at April 15, 2008 12:25 AM
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