House cracks down on undocumented workers
By Charlotte Eby, Sioux City Journal, April 17, 2008
DES MOINES — Trying to deal with an influx of illegal immigrants, the Iowa House moved forward Wednesday with a measure meant to reduce the employment of undocumented workers.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, said Democrats wanted to send a message to the federal government and try to deal with a problem Iowans have been concerned about.
"The symbolic statement is a plea to the federal government to start enforcing the law and have a comprehensive, logical immigration policy," McCarthy said.
The measure, which cleared the House on an 84-16 vote, requires employers to check driver's licenses or other state-issued photo identification from Iowa or the surrounding states and verify it within 10 business days of a hire. Employers or their designee must sign a form under penalty of perjury confirming they have examined the ID and "facially validated" the employee.
The measure also would mean aliens who are arrested would be denied bail, and local law enforcement agencies would be required to notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The measure seeks to stop employers from paying employees cash or misclassifying them as independent contractors. Backers say the practice has been used in the construction industry and means employees can't get unemployment or workers' compensation benefits.
Employers who misclassify those employees could face misdemeanor criminal penalties.
Failure to follow the law could result in civil penalties and those who make false statements or conceal material facts could be charged with a Class D felony and face a possible five-year prison term.
Reps. Elesha Gayman, D-Davenport, and Phil Wise, D-Keokuk, offered an amendment accepted by the House that would make it an aggravated misdemeanor for anyone to make or obtain identification cards that would assist an illegal alien in gaining employment.
Gayman said voters asked during the campaign what could be done about illegal immigration.
"Since our identification systems are run at a statewide level, I do believe that it is appropriate for our state to take action on this," Gayman said.[More]
Of course, there are people complaining—
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, [Send her mail]voted against the bill. She pointed to what she called a humanitarian crisis and reminded fellow lawmakers of Iowa's tradition of lending a helping hand to immigrants.
"I wonder what I would do or any of us in this chamber would do if we were not able to feed our children. Would we break the law or would we allow our children to starve?" Wessel-Kroeschell said.
I have a hot flash for Ms. Wessel-Kroeschell—people aren't starving in Mexico. There's poverty, and crime, and corruption in Mexico, but there is not starvation. A quick Google search turned up a New York Times article—from 1915.
If, however, Ms. Wessel-Kroeschell wants to stop hunger in Mexico, she should consider sending them some of that Iowa-grown produce, rather than helping Mexicans come north illegally. That's because the poverty, crime, and corruption in Mexico aren't caused by the climate. They're caused by the people.