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TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Immigration enforcement requires accurate database

The amendment on illegal immigration that U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, attached to the minimum-wage bill sounds good, and is good.

The problem is in its execution. The program on which he bases strict accountability for employing illegal immigrants is flawed and may be worth little.

It's called the Basic Pilot Program and is voluntary for employers to electronically check worker status. Their employment status checks are with the Social Security Administration and the Homeland Security Department. But those two agencies apparently don't share information.

Those using Basic Pilot and holding government contracts would be protected for using properly screened employees. Those with illegal workers on their payroll and who do not use Basic Pilot would be subject to a 12-year ban on federal work.

The amendment would bar companies with no government contracts now for 10 years if caught hiring illegal workers.

Federal agents raided six Swift & Co. meat processing plants in December and rounded up more than 1,000 supposedly illegal workers. Critics charged that Swift released hundreds more in advance of the raids.

Swift's defense was to point out Basic Pilot's flaws and to say that the federal government uses outdated databases.

Twenty percent of the time the program incorrectly identifies employment-authorized individuals, both citizens and non-citizens.

There are reports of the same identities and Social Security numbers showing up several times without getting red flagged or having proper follow-up.

Congress and the president continue to talk tough about stopping illegal immigration but the structure for enforcing their blustering is not in place. The senator is serious in his commitment to closing the borders but many politicians are not.

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