Immigration and Printing — Accountability Matters
At present, the process begins and ends with the Employment Eligibility Verification form, commonly known as the I-9. This federal form lists three categories of acceptable documents for proving both identity and eligibility. But what if future legislation dictates that employers are more responsible for identifying bogus documents, with harsh penalties awaiting those who are found to have hired immigrants who entered the country illegally?
“I don’t have any sympathy for employers who are trying to take advantage of illegal immigrants. and paying lower than market wages,” notes Jerry Williamson, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Williamson Printing, pointing to the raid of Swift Packing. “If you hold businesses to a reasonable standard of exercising due diligence, that’s all that should be expected. We are not qualified to try to catch forged documents. We are not in a position to hire investigators to do complete background checks.
“It is asking too much to demand such a high standard of perfection from small, private businesses because we are not in the verification business. In my opinion, reasonable due diligence consists of making a conscientious effort to make sure the people are here legally before we hire them. We do not pay anyone in our company below the going market rate for the position to which they would be hired.”
Bob Lindgren, president of the Printing Industries Association of Southern California, blames U.S. immigration policy for perpetuating the cycle that leads to impoverished Mexicans fleeing to their best hope for earning a living wage—and survival.
Lindgren believes there is a “decent percentage” of illegals working in the printing industry. The document route most take to satisfying the I-9 obligation—a social security card and driver’s license—is extremely simple to fudge.
“The people who get jobs here, in a factory environment, have that form of identification,” Lindgren says. “Frequently, frankly, it’s fraudulent. The employer is not homeland security. Their obligation is to see it, write down the numbers and hand it back to the employee. Clip the I-9 to their file and that’s the end of it.”