Monday, March 9, 2009 6:09 PM
By: David A. Patten
An estimated 300,000 construction jobs paid for by the stimulus plan will go to illegal workers after leading Democrats removed a provision requiring verification of citizenship, a leading immigration expert tells Newsmax.
The House version of the $787 billion stimulus bill required verification of the legal residency of anyone put to work by its spending. But that provision was removed from the bill before members of Congress met to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), tells Newsmax the verification provision was deleted by Democratic leaders even before the bill reached the conference committee, where differences between House and Senate legislation are normally ironed out.
“When it got to conference, the top people -- not just the conference members, but the top people: Reid, Pelosi, and Obama -- chose to kill the provision and not include it,” Camarota says. “This was a purposeful decision.”
The provision would have required that workers’ names to be vetted through the Internet-based E-Verify system. E-Verify, a joint project of the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration, gives employers a quick means of verifying employee eligibility.
“E-Verify is our most effective tool for preventing illegal immigrants from getting jobs, and they chose not to use it,” says Camarota.
The estimate of 300,000 construction jobs is based on U.S. Census and other studies showing that approximately 15 percent of U.S. construction workers are illegal immigrants.
Construction projects funded by the stimulus bill are expected to generate 2 million jobs. Assuming 15 percent of those workers are illegal, 300,000 illegal aliens would be employed. The actual number could be higher, however, because many of the projects are in states with high immigrant populations, such as Texas, California, and Florida.
The CIS estimates are accepted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and even groups that advocate on behalf of illegals don’t quibble with them much. One activist for illegals, however, told USA Today that the CIS report amounts to “fear tactics.”
Some sources suggest Democrats opened up stimulus money to illegals to placate activists who may have to wait for the outright amnesty they covet. Others say it reflects the influence of pro-business interests who want a vast workforce of reasonably priced labor.
Whatever the motivation, Camarota says it’s no accident the verification measure was stripped out. “This was not just a careless oversight that can sometimes happen in the legislative process,” he says.
One economic concern generated by the CIS report: A significant portion of illegal workers’ income is shipped out of the United States to support their families. That money would no longer be available to support economic activity in the United States.
The Council on Foreign Relations, for example, estimates that in 2004 Mexican nationals pumped $22.2 billion back into Mexico’s economy via remittances sent back home. How well U.S. taxpayers tolerate the export of stimulus dollars given the rapidly rising unemployment at home remains to be seen.
“In general construction jobs are reasonably good paying jobs for working class people, and we’re talking about perhaps 300,000 of them going to people who aren’t supposed to be even in the country,”
Camarota says. “And this is money coming from taxpayers. The whole point of the stimulus is to put Americans back to work. And by not including E-Verify, it’s a terrible slap in the face to U.S. construction workers, who are currently experiencing a 10 percent, sometimes even 15 percent unemployment rate.”
Before leaving office, former President Bush signed an executive order requiring all federal contractors to submit employees’ names to E-verify. President Obama has delayed implementation of that directive until at least May 21.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a lawsuit to prevent making the use of E-Verify mandatory. The organization says Congress approved it strictly as a voluntary initiative.
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