‘Sanctuary Businesses’? Tough-Talking States Give Businesses a Pass on Undocumented Immigration

As part of its tough stance against illegal immigration, Texas has been one of the few states requiring state agencies to use a federal system known as E-Verify to check job applicants.

The system checks Social Security numbers to make sure a prospective employee can legally work in the U.S.

But despite the state’s determined use of technology, it has no one in charge of making agencies comply with the law. It also does not require private employers to use the system if they are not working with the state.

And that, some immigration experts say, highlights a flaw in how states and the federal government combat illegal immigration.

E-Verify is supposed to weed out would-be workers in the country illegally, but its use is largely optional. In states that do require E-Verify, its use is inconsistent, even in a state such as Texas.

Some immigrant rights activists complain that governments, though eager to target workers in the country illegally, protect the employers who hire them. Texas Democrats have come up with a term to describe this situation — a twist on the phrase “sanctuary cities” — that JoAnn Flemming, executive director of the conservative group Grassroots America, says she can agree with.

“It’s called ‘sanctuary businesses/industry,’” she said. “That makes a lot of Republicans mad when you use that term, but the fact of the matter is that there is a strong cheap labor lobby in Texas, and they give a lot of money to candidates and they have a lot of influence.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has long criticized government officials about the tendency to crack down on people in the country illegally while largely giving a pass to those who illegally hire them.

In March, she questioned the president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council during a congressional hearing about immigration enforcement.

By Cindy Carcamo for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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