Senator says everybody is to blame |

Senator says everybody is to blame

Jacques Billeaud

PHOENIX – The business community said the government allows too many records to be accepted from new employees, increasing the chances of getting fake documents. In addition, anti-discrimination laws limit the way that businesses can question prospective employees.The law also requires that federal authorities prove that a business knew it was employing illegal immigrants, not merely that it hired people who were later revealed to be illegal.U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, a former U.S. Border Patrol boss credited with dramatically reducing illegal crossings in the El Paso area in the 1990s, said federal agents aren’t given the resources they need to crack down on illegal hiring.Illicit border crossings dropped shortly after Congress created employer sanctions for illegal hirings in 1986 because would-be border-crossers believed businesses wouldn’t hire them, Reyes said.”It didn’t take but a couple or three years for people to see that it was a law without teeth,” said Reyes, whose work as a Border Patrol chief included employer investigations. Then, illegal border crossings increased, Reyes said.Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who has proposed an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws, said the only deterrent against illegal hirings today is the Border Patrol catching immigrants before they get to jobs in the nation’s interior.”There has been a complicity among the businesses and the government and other public officials, and everybody is a little bit to blame in all of this,” Kyl said.Businesses leaned on members of Congress in the late 1990s to urge federal agents to ease up on work site enforcement after crackdowns on workers in Vidalia onion fields in Georgia and at meatpacking plants in Nebraska, immigration analysts and politicians said.Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates limits on immigration, said that kind of political pressure sends an enduring signal to law enforcers that they can catch grief for doing what they are supposed to.”You can actually be penalized for it,” Mehlman said.Associated Press writer Joy Hepp in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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