- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is being criticized for dragging its feet on implementing a program to help businesses determine the residency status of new employees.
INS officials said results of test programs that began in 1998 show more studies are needed before any program can be widely implemented.
"There is no enthusiasm for this whatsoever inside the INS," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and a leading critic of U.S. immigration policies. "If you were able to stop all employees from hiring illegal aliens, you would stop illegal immigration, and that is not something the government is willing to do."
However, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the new INS agency in the Homeland Security Department, said the studies are moving along as expected.
"We are still on schedule, as lengthy as it may seem," Bill Strassberger said.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 required the INS and Social Security Administration to test and evaluate a series of voluntary pilot programs that electronically verify if new employees are legal residents.
The program took place in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas and used multiple sources of information to document fraud, discrimination and violations of civil liberties.
"While potentially a valid concept, it is not ready for larger-scale implementation at this time," the report said. The INS and Social Security Administration "should continue to test pilot program improvements that would retain program advantages while mitigating current problems with the program."
About 10 percent of documents submitted were from "unauthorized workers," and it is likely that some illegal aliens avoided applying to employers enrolled in the program, the report said.
"The basic pilot database did not yield conclusive data on the use of fraudulent documents and cannot identify imposter fraud. However, the level of false attestation to U.S. citizenship appears to be low," the report said.
The program also focused on reducing discrimination among immigrant workers, but according to the report, discrimination increased and decreased, depending on the situation. Employers said they felt more comfortable in hiring but took action against employees after an initial result questioned the legality of their papers.
"It is clear that discrimination resulting from improper employer use of the basic pilot program could have been mitigated if federal databases were more accurate and up to date," the report said.
Dan Stein, director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said a new system should be adopted quickly to stop the use of fake documents by illegal aliens.
"If the Department of Defense spent as much time and money studying new weapons systems as the INS has spent studying a work eligibility verification system, our military forces would be heading into combat in Iraq armed with muskets and bayonets," Mr. Stein said.
The system also would encourage "self-deportation" for the millions of illegal aliens in the country.
"With illegal immigration running rampant, and the threat that it poses to our national security, it's time to just do it," Mr. Stein said. "What we don't need is another government study."
Mr. Tancredo said small businesses will pay for the government's inability to move forward with the program.
"They are, unfortunately, being sacrificed," he said.

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