Mike H's blog

Stop the Hate: Arizona Style Anti-Immigrant Measures in Pennsylvania Must Be Killed

Rep. Daryl Metcalf held hearings over the past two days on what he styled as the "National Security Begins at Home" package of legislation. The hearings included the following bills:

HB 41, HB 355, HB 439, HB 474, HB 738, HB 798, HB 799, HB 801, HB 809, HB 810, HB 856, HB 857, HB 858, HB 865, SB 9

Without getting into each and every one of these bills, let me highlight some things these bills would do:

  • Require the flawed e-verify system to be used by all employers in the state
  • Penalize municipalities that are considered "sanctuary cities" (Reading and Philadelphia both fall into this definition). Penalties could include taking away public benefits from all residents in these cities.
  • Make it a crime to knowingly transport an undocumented immigrant. This would include a church driving an individual to services or a child driving her undocumented mother to the hospital
  • Require identification to be used to access any and all public benefits, despite the fact that an estimated 500,000 citizens in Pennsylvania lack ID (you guessed it: this group includes a disproportionate number of poor, black, and elderly)
  • Allow competitor companies and disgruntled employees to bring lawsuits! against a business for allegedly hiring undocumented immigrants. Seemingly no proof is necessary and one can win triple! damages (triple what, I'm not sure, but it sounds big!)
  • Allow police officers to request immigration paperwork of any immigrant and would create a criminal offense for note carrying those papers. How this law will be enforced without racial profiling, I don't know.
  • Deputize local police as ICE agents, able to carry out immigration functions.
  • Deny citizenship to children born in Pennsylvania to undocumented immigrants.
  • and many more fun provisions....

LTE From Toll Brothers Director: Eviscerate All Worker Protections

I came across this letter to the editor in the Inky on Tuesday (emphasis mine):

Jim Florio states, "Businesses are deciding . . . higher levels of U.S. unemployment are a necessary and acceptable way to control costs and boost profit." Florio has obviously never run a business. Businesses don't consider the overall employment level when determining their staffing needs; they hire based on their own needs, nothing else ("Economic barriers to hiring," Thursday).

If the governor were truly concerned with unemployment rather than berating businesses for trying to be profitable, he should focus on eliminating the economic barriers to hiring Americans imposed by well-intentioned politicians such as himself. A machine or a worker in a developing country will work overtime for regular pay, doesn't get family or medical leave, or require workman's comp and unemployment insurance, and won't sue for every alleged slight, as American workers do.

Andrew Terhune


ICE Access to PARS Degrades Public Safety in Philadelphia

In recent days there has been a fair bit of ink spilled over the agreement that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to have access to Philadelphia’s PARS database. YPP was no exception to this. Nor was my old friend, Stu Bykofsky. Unfortunately we still stand at a deadlock on this issue. Here is what you need to know about this issue as a progressive.

Vilify exploitative employers, not exploited immigrant workers. Or: Why Stu Bykofsky got it wrong. Again.

I’m a couple of weeks late with this post (vacation, work, etc...), but I’ve been thinking about it since I read Stu Bykofsky’s latest attack on immigrants in the Philadelphia Daily News. What bothered me most about this piece isn’t the long attack on undocumented workers that he posted in his previous piece on the same topic (which I also commented on). What bothers me is his seeming complete lack of logic in this article.

Temple, Listen Up! 20% increase in death rate when nurses go on strike!

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research just came out today and its findings are pretty stark:

"...nurses’ strikes increase in-hospital mortality by 19.4% and 30-day readmission by 6.5% for patients admitted during a strike...

This changes the tenor of the current nurse/technician strike at Temple University Hospital. Not only is the failure to reach a fair contract harming the nurses and the hospital, but it is seriously harming patients.

I hope that all sides in this strike seriously consider the implications of their actions. As qualified as the replacement nurses may be, they obviously are missing something.

Heard here.

We Need Immigration Reform Now! Why Stu Bykofsky got it wrong.

Stu Bykofsky wrote an editorial in the Daily News yesterday slamming calls for immigration reform and the current CIRASAP bill that was recently introduced in the House and has been signed on to by several local politicians. Stu’s essential argument: ‘This bill only helps people who are here “illegally;” if you want to fix the problem, just tell people to get to the back of the line.' This argument is flawed for several reasons. First, immigration reform doesn’t just help those who are here without documents—rather it creates order out of our immigration policy and treatment of immigrants that will help all Americans. Second, there is no line to get on to if you are from a poor country.

Comprehensive immigration reform is absolutely necessary to continue to keep our country functioning. As things stand, we have 12+ million undocumented immigrants in this country. While our legal system generally applies equally to everyone regardless of immigration status (e.g. minimum wage laws, criminal laws), undocumented immigrants live in constant fear of deportation. This fear makes them scared to call the police when they have been the victim of a crime or when they are being exploited by an unscrupulous businessman forcing them to work for half-minimum wage. With such a huge population being exploited on a daily basis, the quality of living for all of us suffers—failure to call the police in the face of crime makes our communities less safe; failure to report unscrupulous employers lowers the wage floor for everyone.

Send them all home, you say? Stu does:

Second, the "path to citizenship" is unpopular, according to a new Zogby poll. Among executives, 59 percent support enforcement to encourage illegal immigrants to go home, 30 percent support conditional legalization; 67 percent of small-business owners support enforcement, and 22 percent approve of conditional legalization. And in union households, 58 percent support enforcement while 28 percent like conditional legalization.

But where does that leave our economy? Living in fear, working for less than the minimum wage, having no healthcare, and not understanding the language spoken in a country are not the kinds things you do unless it is out of necessity—don’t kid yourself and think that undocumented immigrants are here living high off the government. Undocumented immigrants are here to work and working they are. They help to make our economy run. They work in construction, building our houses; as migrant workers, growing our produce; and they open stores, contributing to the local economy. And remember, when you work, you pay taxes, regardless of your immigration status. According to the 2008 report on Social Security, undocumented immigrants (who will never collect social security), will close 15% of the fund’s long term deficit. In 2005, undocumented workers were contributing roughly $7 billion per year into the Social Security trust fund. Money that they will never get back. I’m not saying that we should keep people in a position where they pay in to the system and get nothing back; I’m merely trying to counter the all-too-often repeated argument that undocumented immigrants are here suckling the government teat and giving nothing back. Both parts of that argument are just plain untrue.

And of course, none of this is to speak of all of the things that this bill does for people who are here legally. Wage theft will be reduced, leading to higher wages for all workers; the economy will see a boost of $1.5 trillion; and people like my friend from an unnamed African country will be able to get a visa, who, after a Masters degree in Physics and several nursing degrees all from esteemed US institutions may have to leave the country despite 10 years studying here. All of these factors are very important to our economy, security, innovation, place in the world, and soul as a nation.

And what about this line that we keep hearing about? People are supposed to get back on the line, aren’t they? Even Newt Gingrich understands that there is no sensible line to get on. It is really hard to get a green card, especially if you are from a poor country. Most recently, for WORLDWIDE immigration to the US, we are statutorily capped at about 400,000 people per year. Total. That includes family members, people coming for a specific job, people in the green card lottery, etc… In 2006, it was estimated that somewhere around 1 million people per year were entering the US without authorization. That means that unauthorized entries are more than double the number of visas available each year. That smells like a problem—our numbers should meet the demand from businesses and workers.

Finally, a few parting words:

  • Stu assumes at the end of his article that everyone that he spoke with was undocumented. The only person he really documents is an Argentinean who said that he came here for 2 years, but then decided to stay. How do we know that he is not authorized to be here? Is it because he doesn’t speak English or isn’t white? Would we make the same assumption if a merry old Englishman told Stu the same story? Many Latinos are in this country and city as citizens; some of these people don’t speak any English. We cannot and should not assume that dark skin plus limited English ability = “illegal.” It isn’t right morally and it isn’t correct legally.
  • Jen from the New Sanctuary Movement (whose work I fully support) says that being here without documentation is akin to jaywalking. With all due respect to Jen, I can’t buy this argument—it belittles the problem in a way that would make me think we shouldn’t take it seriously.
  • Stu laments the fact that there would ever be an “amnesty” that would allow a path to citizenship for people who are here without documents. I ask Stu to Google “Tax Amnesty” and then re-ask the question as to whether it ever makes sense for the government to normalize relations with people who may have broken a law in the past. I think he may change his answer.
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