Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

On immigration reform, everyone’s an expert

Post by Kim Bradford on May 23, 2010 at 7:01 pm with No Comments »
May 23, 2010 8:04 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Telling other governments how they should handle immigration issues is becoming politicians’ favorite pastime.

Seattle did it last week, pledging to boycott Arizona for its immigration-enforcement law. The Tacoma City Council didn’t go that far, but it’s considering still sending the border state a strongly worded reprimand.

Now Pierce County apparently wants in on the act.

County Council members are looking to spread the gospel of E-Verify, the federal employment verification system. A resolution on the council’s June 1 agenda would recommend that all state agencies and local governments in Washington use the system to confirm that potential hires have a legal right to work in the U.S.

The urge to offer unbidden advice is all very human, if not presumptuous. The county should tread carefully lest it repeat Seattle and Tacoma’s mistakes of meddling in others’ affairs.

There simply are no magic bullets for the nation’s broken immigration system.

Even E-Verify has its limits. Ask the City of Lakewood, which has threatened to pull $20,000 from the Lakewood Historical Society because the society can’t get a contractor to use E-Verify.

That contractor – Certified Display Folder Services – says its own procedures for checking employees’ legal status are sufficient – and it has no intention of adopting new ones, thank you very much.

That’s a weak defense. E-Verify is not cumbersome. The service is free and Internet-based. Perhaps Certified Display would find it in its best interests to use E-Verify if more local governments required the measure as a condition of doing business.

But the historical society is due some sympathy. The way the city’s law is written, the little guy gets hammered. Low-budget, shoestring operations face hard choices, while relative behemoths like the the Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitor Bureau are spared the full effect of Lakewood’s law.

The bureau does business with Certified Display, but since the bureau is classified as a “quasi-governmental” agency, it is exempted from the law.

Lakewold Gardens also uses Certified Display, but has enough degrees of separation between it and the company to satisfy the requirements.

The Lakewood City Council is apparently looking at changing the law to ensure more equity. Good. The tiny historical society shouldn’t be essentially held to a higher standard than other beneficiaries of city money just because it lacks the heft to immunize itself.

Pierce County’s policy works just the opposite, providing exceptions for smaller vendors. Its E-Verify rule has a $100,000 threshold for road and public works projects and a $25,000 threshold for other contracts.

But those thresholds also mean that some county money is being spent with companies whose workers haven’t been verified on the federal system. Again, nothing is fool-proof.

The County Council is rightfully proud that it’s taken that step to make it easier for legal workers to find work. Now it wants to shout the system’s virtues from the rooftops.

It should go right ahead – but skip the sermon that presumes Pierce County knows best. The immigration debate could use a lot fewer “experts” and a lot more recognition that true immigration reform isn’t simple.

Leave a comment Comments
We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0