New Republican push on anti-immigrant legislation

On March 11, Republican Rep. Thelma Drake of Virginia filed a “discharge petition” on the SAVE Act, HR 4088, to bring it directly to the House floor for debate, bypassing several committees. Immigrants’ rights advocates are warning that there is a real danger the bill could pass, and are calling for intensified lobbying against it.

The SAVE (Secure America through Verification and Enforcement) Act, whose chief sponsor is Democrat Health Shuler of North Carolina, is a repressive “enforcement only” bill that would cause a lot of trouble for immigrant and non-immigrant workers alike. It would require employers to check the status of their employees via an electronic government data base that is known to be full of errors. It would require that employers fire, within ten days, any employee for whom a Social Security “No-Match” letter is received, if that employee cannot rectify the discrepancy in name and Social Security number that generated the letter.

Most experts assert that there are millions of errors in the Social Security Administration’s files, and that such draconian use of these files as immigration enforcement tools will also result in many thousands of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents losing their jobs. There is a real possibility the chaos this would generate could damage the economy.

A more complete description of the SAVE Act can be found at www.pww.org/article/articleview/12594/1/412/.

The House Republican leadership has several motives for trying to bring the SAVE act to an immediate vote. An obvious one is election year demagoguery, the usual game of scapegoating immigrants for economic and social problems created or exacerbated by the Bush administration’s reactionary policies.

Also this month, a federal court will hear a suit brought against the government by the AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union and others questioning the use of Social Security “No-Match” letters as immigration enforcement tools, on the grounds there is no statutory authorization for such use. The SAVE Act might be seen as creating such authority and thus negating a possible win by the AFL-CIO.

Republican leaders are using the rare “discharge petition” maneuver because, they complain, the House Democratic leadership has the bill bottled up in multiple committees. If they can get 218 signatures on the discharge petition, they can avoid the whole committee process and greatly increase the bill’s likelihood of passage.

The vast majority of Republicans in the House will probably be at least open to signing the discharge petition. Given that 48 Democrats are co-sponsors, it is likely that quite a few of them will also sign the discharge petition. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been working hard to prevent Democrats from signing the petition; at press time only a half-dozen have done so.

Labor and immigrants’ rights organizations are calling for immediate action to stop HR 4088. A first step is to stop the maneuver to avoid committee consideration by means of the “discharge petition.”

We urge our readers to contact their representatives and ask them NOT to sign the discharge petition, and also to have their names removed if they are now co-sponsors of the bill.

As always, readers can find out online if their congressperson is a co-sponsor by going to www.thomas.gov, typing HR 4088 in the search engine box, then going to the “bill status” link.

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