Immigration is a hot topic and a big problem in the United States. Everyone has an opinion on what should be done. But is any one person correct? Consider these numbers: During the 1990s more than 1.3 million immigrants – legal and illegal – settled in the United States each year. Between January 2000 and March 2002, 3.3 million additional immigrants arrived. In less than 50 years, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that immigration will cause the population of the United States to increase from its present 288 million to more than 400 million.

The foreign-born population of the United States is currently 33.1 million, equal to 11.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of this total, the Census Bureau estimates 8-9 million are illegal immigrants. The numbers are staggering.

Canada has an immigration problem as well. However, the Canadians are in a bit of an opposite direction from the United States. The Canada construction industry is so hungry for more workers that they have called on the Canadian government to increase immigration and to improve recruiting strategies to bring individuals with much-needed construction skills to Canada.

Much is being done. Congress is currently introducing new House bills to revise immigration laws. I applaud the effort and hope the STRIVE Act (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy) helps to better control the borders and provide a viable and effective employee verification system. Unfortunately, the first versions of these programs do not look promising.

A major television network ran a story about a young Korean girl who was incorrectly identified as an illegal alien through the new test program. This made her not eligible for work in the United States. Apparently, this new system has about an 11 percent error rate. The story of the Korean girl could have had a terrible ending. However, since she worked for the U.S. government, coincidently the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), it was straightened out quickly. Would this have been so smooth if she had worked for the private sector?

I am concerned the government is going to overburden the private sector in an attempt to make the private sector the police and border patrol. This will have a particularly hard impact on small to medium sized employers that do not have an in-house human resources department.

Make no mistake about it, I believe any employer who knowingly hires illegal aliens should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This would be serving our country and benefit every industry that suffers due to these sweatshop owners who exploit the underprivileged. These same employers tend to pay cash, avoid paying taxes, do not provide benefits to the same workers who in turn provide them a living. These people should be run out of business. However, history tells us our government, even with the best intentions rarely gets it right.

I am concerned the government will spend an inordinate amount of their time and our money hampering the innocent honest employers who follow the rules to the best of their abilities. After all, the honest good employers are the easy targets: They have licenses, offices, file the proper paper work and pay taxes. Unfortunately, making honest employers go through bureaucratic hoops and mounds of paperwork is a “feel good” move and simply puts more of a burden on honest law-abiding employers, while the sweatshops still run under the governmental radar.

I know something has to be done with the immigration problem. I am just concerned about enacting new laws against employers because the government has failed to uphold the current immigration laws. Maybe we could export some of these same bureaucrats to Canada? They seem to want more people.

Now our government seems intent on prison time and extremely stiff penalties for private employers who fail to properly police their employees. I wonder who went to jail or was fined at the INS for hiring the Korean girl? I doubt a wall and ceiling contractor would have received the same flexibility and considerations. I think tough laws are fine, but why do honest American employers have to be the enforcers, and then pay the price for the governments mistakes?

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