Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mixed messages on immigration

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."

Amid the fierce controversy over immigration, the Obama administration has launched three lawsuits this summer to protect the rights of Latinos and legal immigrants — all three targeting Arizona.

In July, the administration successfully blocked Arizona's law that authorized state and local police to check the immigration status of persons who were arrested. On Thursday, it sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio seeking documents that could show he has illegally targeted Latinos in the course of his immigration sweeps.

The suit against the Maricopa community colleges, announced Monday, and could affect employers across the nation.

On one hand, employers must verify their workers are legal, and hiring "an unauthorized alien" can result in fines of up to $3,000 per worker.

On the other hand, if you request "more or different documents" than are needed to prove legal status, you can be sued for discrimination.

The safest option for an employer is to simply stop hiring until the federal government gets its act together. Is that really what Obama wants?

By the way - - The feds filed three lawsuits against three of Arizona's governmental entities in three months. Talk about discrimination and selective prosecution!

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