How did it happen that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had illegal aliens cleaning his home for nearly four years without the Secret Service knowing about it? Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that that Mr. Chertoff hired Consistent Cleaning Services (CCS), a Rockville firm, to clean his home. Every few weeks during this four-year period, CCS employees cleaning the home would have their IDs screened by the Secret Service, and the owner of the firm claims that the workers sailed through — even though subsequent checks showed that they were in the country illegally. Upon learning that CCS had used illegals to clean his home, Mr. Chertoff fired the company.
This summer, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fined the owner of the company, James Reid, $22,880 for failing to check identification and work documents and fill out required verification forms for employees — five of whom were on crews sent to Mr. Chertoff’s home. Mr. Reid claims that the fine may put him out of business, and that it is unreasonable to expect small-business owners like him to be able to determine whether drivers licenses presented him by workers were real or fake. The government counters that it does not penalize companies for hiring illegals if they have made a serious effort to verify whether a job applicant is legally in the United States, and that it only penalizes companies that fail to examine workers’ documents and keep completed I-9 verification forms for employees.
The fact that it took the Secret Service nearly four years to learn that people cleaning the home of a Cabinet official were in the United States illegally is a disturbing example of the compartmentalization of federal immigration and anti-terrorism law. The Secret Service was looking, as it should have been, to screen out terrorists and sociopaths who might attempt to harm Mr. Chertoff. But the reality is that if the system can be fooled by a house cleaner, it can be fooled by a terrorist.
By Elaine Donnelly
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