By Paul Teitelbaum
Published Jun 2, 2011 9:33 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled May 26 in favor of the Arizona law that forces all employers to check a government-run database to determine if a person is “authorized” to work. The law was signed in July 2007 by then Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008. The misnamed “Employer Sanctions” bill is in reality an attack on workers since it criminalizes the fundamental right of a person to seek work.
The vast majority of humankind has no other way to survive than to sell his or her labor power for wages. We are forced, out of necessity, to do whatever it takes to find a boss who will purchase our labor power — someone who will pay us to work. For immigrant workers, this necessity may force them to make a dangerous journey of hundreds of miles or more, often involving a trek through unknown and harsh terrain. This vulnerable sector of workers, demonized and vilified by the corporate press, is forced by this law to show documents to a boss before being granted the right to work.
The boss takes the documents supplied by the worker and checks them against the federal government’s E-Verify database to see if the Social Security number matches an entry in the database. If the SSN isn’t in the database, the employer receives a “no-match” letter stating that the SSN could not be found.
The no-match letter does not present any real danger to the employer. In fact, the bosses use the threat of this E-Verify “no-match” letter and employer sanctions as another way to harass and intimidate immigrant workers, who may demand a decent wage or complain about intolerable working conditions.
If workers make up Social Security numbers for the sole purpose of getting a job, they are charged under Arizona’s Employer Sanctions law with identity theft, which is a felony. This shows how the law is really aimed at the workers.
The Employer Sanctions law is meaningless to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Since the law’s inception in 2007 and the forced use of the E-Verify database, workplace raids by ICE have increased without regard to whether or not the targeted employer complied with E-Verify.
The result is heavily armed SWAT teams terrorizing workers with automatic weapons, rounding them up, placing them in chains and carting them off to detention centers. Families and communities are ripped apart. But the bosses are back in business the next day unscathed.
The database itself is considered flawed by many. It was judged unreliable in July 2006 by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. On Feb. 25, 2010, the Wall Street Journal noted that a study commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security showed that the database had an inaccuracy rate of about 54 percent. On May 7 the National Immigration Law Center issued a critique of E-Verify with quotes from employers bemoaning its poor reliability and accuracy.
Many businesses in Arizona oppose the Employer Sanctions law and see it as too burdensome. These bosses still want cheap sources of labor power. They prefer a “guest worker” program, in which workers are delivered by the state when needed and disposed of when no longer needed. Guest workers would have no rights, could not organize a union and would be at the complete mercy of the bosses.
By letting the Arizona law stand, the Supreme Court has given the green light to other states to follow suit. As with other racist, anti-immigrant laws like SB1070, they are hatched here in Arizona, and if successful, other states are ready to enact copycat legislation.
The capitalist courts don’t determine the final outcome, however. It is the determination of the people in the struggle that makes the difference. Although the Supreme Court may have ruled in favor of this law, we oppose it and will fight against it and all other racist, repressive anti-immigrant legislation that spews forth in Arizona, Georgia, Utah or anywhere else.
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