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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily                        < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly 

[Congressional Record: December 15, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S11902-S11903]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr15de00pt2-164]                         
 
               PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF IMMIGRANT WORKERS

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, fourteen years ago, Congress passed the 
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, IRCA. That Act has had 
undeniably profound effects on the nation--both positive and negative. 
IRCA set into motion the current legalization program, which has 
brought millions of individuals out of the shadows of illegal immigrant 
status and onto a path of temporary status, permanent status and, 
ultimately, United States citizenship. At the same time, IRCA 
authorized employer sanctions which, in addition to not deterring 
illegal immigration, have led to a false document industry and caused 
discrimination against Latino, Asian, other immigrant workers, and even 
United States citizens, who by their accent or appearance are wrongly 
perceived as being here illegally.
  Many of us supported the provision in IRCA which created an office to 
address cases of discrimination resulting from employer sanctions. 
Since then, the Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for 
Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices, OSC, has enforced the 
anti-discrimination provisions and provided relief to workers who have 
faced immigration-related job discrimination.
  One of the innovative accomplishments of OSC has been to develop 
effective partnerships with state and local government civil rights 
agencies. A Memoranda of Understanding enables the civil rights 
agencies who are supposed to work together to do just that. As a 
result, all agencies are better equipped to prevent and eradicate 
discrimination.
  Recently, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination joined

[[Page S11903]]

with the OSC to educate employers, workers and the general public in 
the state and to work together to address discrimination. The Boston 
Globe praised the work of the Office of Special Counsel and urged 
increases in its staff and budget in order for it to keep up with the 
growing number of newcomers and employers. In the words of the 
editorial, ``This would help immigrants and the economy--a winning move 
for the United States.''
  I ask unanimous consent for the Boston Globe editorial, ``Protecting 
Immigrants,'' to be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

             [From the Boston Sunday Globe, Oct. 19, 2000]

                         Protecting Immigrants

       Working immigrants are like high-octane fuel for the 
     economy. Given the nation's shortage of workers, hiring 
     immigrants is a great way to fill jobs, whether in high-tech 
     or in restaurants.
       But immigrants can face serious job discrimination. Some 
     don't know their rights. Others are afraid to complain. 
     That's why federal and state governments must improve 
     enforcement of fair work practices.
       One tool is in place, but it needs to grow.
       In 1986, eager to crack down on illegal immigration, 
     Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. The 
     law threatened employers with fines unless they verified that 
     new hires were legally eligible to work.
       Congress knew that turning employers into immigration cops 
     could lead to more discrimination. So the act also created 
     the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair 
     Employment Practices.
       Today, the Office for the Special Counsel fights 
     discrimination based on national origin and citizenship 
     status. It cracks down on ``document discimination''--asking 
     for more proof of work status than is legally required--and 
     on rarer cases of employer retaliation. The office also 
     mediates disputes and trains employers and human service 
     providers.
       This work goes on in states with large immigrant 
     populations, like New York and California, but also in 
     Arkansas, Oregon, and Nebraska, where immigrant populations 
     are growing. In the last two years, the office has reached 
     settlements with SmithKline Beecham, the pharmaceutical 
     company, the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper, and Iowa 
     Beef Packers, a meat packing and processing company in South 
     Dakota.
       Last year, the special counsel's office awarded $45,000 to 
     the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, a 
     grant used statewide to education immigrants, train community 
     agency staff, and hold forums. The office recently formed a 
     valuable alliance with the Massachusetts Commission Against 
     Discrimination. Since the office has no local branches, it is 
     building a nationwide web of local contacts whom immigrants 
     can turn to for federal help.
       Unfortunately as national immigration rates soar, the 
     Office for the Special Counsel is having trouble keeping up. 
     Its activities are limited by a small staff and a budget of 
     just under $6 million. Doubling the budget would spread the 
     office's reach more evenly across the country. It could take 
     more preventative measures, helping employers before laws are 
     violated, instead of punishing them once the harm is done.
       This would help immigrants and the economy--a winning move 
     for the United States.

                          ____________________




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