While some view the Obama administration’s new immigration task force as a mere Band-Aid on an issue that needs overarching reform, it might also spur much-needed debate on the emotionally charged topic.
Established Jan 20., the new 15-member Immigration and Customs Enforcement Task Force will review employers’ rosters and audit I-9 Forms in search of illegal hires. Will the task force’s scrutiny make employers reluctant to hire legal immigrants? What could it mean for the economy? And what does it mean for the immigration debate?
Andrew Sagartz, executive director of Bunnu Legal Services in Lake County, said the task force might have a negative impact on legal workers who could be viewed as suspect when they apply for new jobs.
“The employment of many hard-working individuals will be at risk,” said Sagartz. “If they lose their jobs,... their families will suffer.”
Joshua Hoyt, executive director of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said businesses struggling with a weak economy don’t need the extra burden of dealing with task force requirements.
"If the president’s not careful, he’s going to destroy the progress he has made in turning this economy around,” Hoyt said. “He has not kept his commitment on securing [meaningful] immigration reform. To go after immigrant workers seems like a foolish thing to do at this time.”
Sagartz agreed, citing the economic impact if immigrant workers have fewer employment opportunities.
“In one immigrant segment, Hispanics, there is already an average poverty rate of 25.3 percent nationally,” Sagartz said. “Our communities will be at even greater risk as already overburdened social services and government agencies--food pantries, shelters, etc.--struggle to provide safety nets to meet the human needs of community members. Very many of these families include U.S. citizen children.”
Sergio Fernandez came to the U.S. at age 3 with his family from Lima, Peru. He is now the president of the Chicago-based Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, an organization that places skilled Latinos into professional positions.
His organization should not be impacted by the new policy, he said, but industries with less-skilled workers, like construction and restaurant businesses, will be hit.
Immigration is a controversial subject, Fernandez said, but one that requires attention and fair debate.
“I genuinely think that there are inefficiencies,” Fernandez said, including policies like the new task force. “The overwhelming majority of the population says we need better enforcement, so they’re going to pass these laws.”
“It’s interesting to see how this movement is moving along,” he said. “It’s going to build up, and politicians will consider it less taboo to talk about. The hope is that people will be able to have mature conversations.”