Document checks can be a dilemma |

Document checks can be a dilemma

Robert Allen
Farm workers tend to Olathe, Colo. farmer Mike Ahlberg's onion crop, June 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Montrose Daily Press, William Woody)

OLATHE – Regardless of regulations, farmers cannot get by without people to do the picking and packing. Mike Ahlberg, owner of Mountain Fresh Sweet Corn, said a few years ago he had to resort to using “illegal people” when the government limited the nationwide number of worker visas to 50,000. Colorado’s farming season begins later than Florida and Texas, and once the cap was hit, the farmers had few alternatives.Lack of security along the border between the United States and Mexico has made it possible for determined parties to bypass the complex temporary worker system and seek employment on their own. Millions of illegal immigrants live within the United States, roofing houses, picking vegetables and washing dishes every day.

“They’re around,” Ahlberg said. “They keep crossing down by the river and stuff. You can hire them. You can’t question documents on them.””You get in more trouble for questioning IDs, numbers. The fine’s like $500,000 for that,” he said.He said somebody could come looking for a job with a Social Security card number of “000 00 0000,” and if it appeared genuine, he would not be able to ask for more or different forms of identification. In the event Ahlberg discovers that this number is invalid, he must give the employee another opportunity to provide documentation.If the next card reads “000 00 0001,” Ahlberg must accept it. Once someone has given three invalid cards, the employer can deny work because of ineligibility, he said.

“Some employers have been sued for scrutinizing documents,” said Carl Rufnok, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman. “The employer should avoid requiring more documentation from some groups of people that happen to be minorities.”Unless the documents obviously belong to someone else or are blatantly forged, employers can’t question their authenticity.”There are Hispanic organizations which promote illegal immigration and do take advantage of this law, which nullifies any real employer sanction,” said former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm. “This is the reason we must have either a counterproof Social Security card, or counterproof driver’s license.”

Just as people make counterfeit money, they can make counterfeit Social Security cards, green cards, driver’s licenses and perhaps even visas that appear legit, Ahlberg said.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism