Good ICE, Bad ICE

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary The U.S. government has taken the concept “good cop/bad cop” to a whole new level. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), businesses that “voluntarily” join the E-Verify program (the program that checks on the immigration status of all employees) will not suffer huge fines and may be given a brake if any of their employees may be undocumented. This new volunteer program for businesses, called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE), will give employers a chance to voluntarily join a program that is in fact required for all employers to join anyways. Here is how the program works. If an employer wants to join the IMAGE program, they must complete an ICE audit. Next, the employer must have employees complete I-9 forms. Next, an employer must establish a written hiring and verification policy. Finally, an employer that joins the IMAGE program must sign a partnership agreement with the ICE. For the IMAGE agreement to go into effect, an employer must comply with its provisions within 60 days.

Sounds so simple, right? In many ways it is. This type of law enforcement agreement is meant to cause as little disruption to those businesses that voluntarily join it as possible. All those businesses that join it must get rid of any workers who cannot comply or do not wish to comply with the IMAGE program that their employer has joined. But here is the kicker—this voluntary program is, in effect, still law enforcement. It is another tool in the ICE’s weaponry arsenal to get rid of the undocumented. Except, it does not really get rid of the undocumented. The undocumented may go from one business to another, or they may be left in even greater limbo. But this will not likely force the undocumented to leave. Again the existence of the undocumented is a social rather than a legal issue. Remember, the undocumented have family—spouses and probably children. Will breaking families apart solve the problem? No. Many of the undocumented have been here for years and even decades. They have too much here to want or be forced to leave.

Trying to force, through persuasion or force, employers to throw the undocumented out of work will not only not work but is in fact counterproductive. A law enforcement policy alone will not change how rigid, unworkable and byzantine the whole immigration system is. Law enforcement without fundamental reforms to the immigration system is totally useless. Whatever the undocumented are, one simple fact is that no matter what their immigration status is they still do hard work, pay taxes, try to be good community residents, and have families—many of whom are permanent legal residents and U.S. citizens. No amount of legal force—whether applied with immigration raids or threatening audits against employers—will change this. Let the ICE play its little games. What the politicians may be forgetting is that many of the families and children of the undocumented are U.S. citizens who can vote. The day will come when we the people will vote the ICE’s bosses out of office!

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