Volume 21, Number 7
Fannie Lou Hamer
Winter Soldier II
Behind the Scenes
Center for constitutional rights -- Ccr
CÃ©sar cuauhtÃ©moc GarcÃÂa hernÃ¡ndez
Pentagon's Toxic Legacy
Jeffrey st. Clair
Vietnam to Dude...
Body of War
Soldiers of Reason
Zinn's American Empire
Vision - Cooling Planet
Chomsky, Pappé Interview
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
E-Verify: Bad Execution, Bad Idea
When the governor of Rhode Island signed an executive order at the end of March requiring the state government and private businesses that contract with it to use a little known federal program to verify employment eligibility, he positioned his state within a small but growing number of governments using social security information to target undocumented workers.
The innocuous sounding "E-Verify" program allows employers to electronically check whether their employees are authorized to work. If the workers are not authorized, they are fired.
Participation in the program is billed as voluntary, but employers are increasingly being required to use E-Verify by state legislatures and governors intent on doing something about "the problem of illegal immigration," as
Not to be outdone, Congress is looking to make the program mandatory for the entire country. There are two bills with substantial support pending in the House of Representatives. One, co-sponsored by Democrat Heath Shuler and Republican Tom Tancredo, lulls the senses with its clever acronym SAVE (Secure America through Verification and Enforcement) Act. Texas Republicans Sam Johnson and Kevin Brady, along with Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, sponsored the other bill. These bills would require some or all employers to use the program. Failure to participate would result in penalties—typically fines, lost government contracts, or lost business licenses.
The E-Verify program traces its roots to 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), a sweeping law that, among other things, altered workplaces throughout the country. IRCA imposed two new requirements on employers. First, they had to check to make sure that any new employees had the federal government's permission to work. Because of this requirement, every worker—citizen or not—who has been hired since IRCA has had to fill out the now ubiquitous I-9 form and show proof of identity before being hired.
To enforce this requirement Congress imposed a second step—the much talked about employer sanctions. IRCA authorizes the federal government to fine employers who do not comply with the law, either by not following the paperwork requirement or, more commonly discussed, by hiring people who are not authorized to work. Currently, employers can be fined up to $1,100 for not completing, retaining, or presenting for inspection an I-9 for every employee. In addition, they can be fined up to $11,000 for each of their employees who do not have the federal government's permission to work.
Sensing a problem in the paper-based I-9 process, in 1996 Congress required the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, now part of the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services [CIS] division) to create three voluntary pilot programs to test electronic methods for verifying employment eligibility. After internal evaluations showed that two of the pilot programs were plagued by technical problems or employer misuse—including discrimination against non-citizens who are authorized to work—Congress narrowed its focus on E-Verify's predecessor, the Basic Pilot Program (BPP).
The BPP was designed to provide a check for employers who met the letter but not the spirit of the I-9 form's verification process. No longer would it be enough for an employer to make a good faith determination that the documents they were shown were authentic and accurate. Under the BPP the federal government would make the final call—and it would do so immediately.
At least that's the program's stated purpose. In reality BPP's past was far from perfect and its future should be nothing short of alarming.
The problems with E-Verify start with a bewildering process that involves employers, employees, up to two federal agencies, and a series of phone calls, letters, and in-person office visits. Like the current paper process, the BPP requires employers to get I-9 forms from all new employees. Employers must then enter the new worker's name, social security number, and date of birth into the web-based program. If the employee states she is not a citizen of the
On the other end, the worker's information is checked against an enormous repository of employment records kept by the Social Security Administration (SSA). If either the SSA database does not verify the worker's employment authorization or the worker is not a citizen, then the information entered by the employer is forwarded to CIS. There the information passes through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) computer databases. If the automated search turns up nothing, the information is passed along to an immigration status verifier for a manual check.
At this point the process becomes even more confusing. If CIS can't determine work eligibility it sends the employer a "no match" letter. Several reasons can explain CIS's inability to verify a person's work authorization. For example, a clerical error could have resulted in a misspelled name or incorrect birth date. Since the federal government tells the employer, not the employee, about the tentative "nonconfirmation" (the formal term used to describe no match letters), the employee must rely on the employer to pass along this critical, time-sensitive news. The worker can either quit the job or contact SSA or CIS. The worker then has eight days to resolve the government's inability to verify her work authorization.
If the worker decides to contest the no match letter, SSA or CIS must reach a final decision within ten days. After that period, if the federal government still cannot verify the person's work authorization it sends out a final nonconfirmation letter. (This is also issued when a worker who receives tentative nonconfirmation fails to contest it.)
A final nonconfirmation is a worker's death sentence—she must be fired immediately or the employer faces a penalty for knowingly employing a person who is not authorized to work. Recent legislation approved by the Rhode Island House of Representatives, for example, would fine an employer $50 per day for every employee who is unable to verify work eligibility.
At least three independent investigations—by the SSA's inspector general, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Westat, a private research organization hired by the government—have determined that E-Verify is riddled with errors, is exorbitantly expensive, and results in discrimination against foreign-born individuals who are, in fact, authorized to work here.
One major problem is the SSA database that serves as the first check of an employee's work eligibility, known as the Numident database. This enormous collection contains approximately 435 million records. Because the SSA does not get rid of Social Security numbers once they are assigned, the database contains 100 million more records than the country's current population. In a December 2006 report, the SSA's inspector general estimated that approximately 17.8 million of these records are inaccurate.
The errors are particularly bad for people who were born outside the country, including those who have become naturalized citizens. Giving what it called "a conservative estimate," the SSA inspector general reported that 4.8 million of the database's 46.5 million records about non-citizens contain some kind of error. That represents a minimum 10 percent error rate. At least 3.3 million of these faulty records, the report added, identify people as non-citizens when in fact they are citizens. In addition, the report found that hundreds of thousands of records of naturalized citizens contain clerical errors as simple as misspelled names or the wrong date of birth that could incorrectly result in a report that they are not authorized to work.
In addition to the government's own internal reports private evaluators contracted by DHS told the agency in September 2007 that its database "is still not sufficiently up to date to meet the IIRIRA requirement for accurate verification, especially for naturalized citizens," referring to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, the 1996 law that created the BPP.
In its report to Congress, the GAO estimated that about 15 percent of the requests for verification sent to DHS required a manual search of the agency's records. Manual searches can sometimes take up to two weeks to resolve. The problem, the GAO found, is that employment verification information "is sometimes lost or not entered into databases in a timely manner." Meanwhile, the employer and the potential employee are in administrative limbo waiting for the government to track down its own records.
Discrimination that foreign-born workers suffer as a result of these data errors compounds the negative impact of E-Verify on workers. "Since work-authorized foreign-born employees are more likely than U.S.-born employees to receive tentative nonconfirmation erroneously," Westat reported, "the result is increased discrimination against foreign-born employees." Buttressing this finding, the GAO reported that approximately 30 percent of employers use the verification process in ways that are prohibited—for example, to screen potential employees or restrict work assignments while employees contest nonconfirmation letters.
At other times employers fail to inform workers who have received a no match letter, as they are required to do. As a result, the worker does not have the opportunity to contest the letter and is soon issued a final nonconfirmation.
For all its errors, E-Verify doesn't come cheap. The original version, which utilized a dial-up connection, cost almost $12 billion annually, "with employers bearing most of the costs," the GAO found. The new web-based version would likely cost less per transaction, but if it is significantly expanded—as it would be if participation were made mandatory—the price tag can be expected to skyrocket.
In addition, a mandatory program would require many more workers to staff SSA offices as millions more people contest no match letters. Behind the scenes, the SSA and DHS would need more staff to process many millions more verification requests and provide technical assistance to employers nationwide.
Taking these three government studies at their word, there is no question that E-Verify is an error-ridden program that discriminates against foreign-born people. At least one state,
But urging the government to improve its data collection and retrieval abilities shouldn't be our ultimate goal. Rather, we should point out the obvious—immigration enforcement should not be the SSA's job. Bridging the gap between our public pensions system and the many realistic fears that arise from increasingly restrictive immigration policies will only push more employers toward off-the-books hiring. In the end, that will result in more jobs pushed into the shadows of the economy, where workers are more readily exploited.
The great irony of E-Verify is that the Numident database on which most of this process relies tracks entirely lawful, above-board work. The employers and employees whose records are stored in this enormous file all report to the SSA. They deduct payroll taxes, pay income taxes, contribute to Social Security and Medicare, and more.
Unlike the sneaky thugs of the vitriolic rhetoric—the so-called criminals whose identity is frequently reduced by politicians and pundits to nothing more than leeching "illegals" —the people whom E-Verify is intended to purge from the workforce are unquestionably gainfully employed, hard working individuals.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.