Ever thus

The federal government’s E-Verify program is on. Or not. The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program is safe. Or not. Small businesses – which comprise the majority of our industry – are held responsible for the legal status of their employees. New? Or not?

This, from Publisher’s Page of the August 15, 1982 issue:

Immigration reform and small business

This past May, the American Association of Nurserymen [now ANLA] presented a statement on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1982 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The statement addresses the inequities and undue burdens placed on small businesses by the employee sanction provisions of the act, S-2222.

The AAN statement is: “The American Association of Nurserymen is a trade association comprised of approximately 3,200 member firms engaged in the growing and wholesale and retail distribution of environmental plants, fruit trees and vines for orchardists, ranchers and homeowners. Virtually all of these firms are small businesses.

“Our member growers employ a significant number of seasonal workers. For this reason, we are concerned about certain aspects of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, S-2222.

“Despite the stated policy of the administration to reduce the record keeping burden on businesses, the bill imposes further record keeping requirements on the small businesses involved, including record maintenance requirements even for employment of U.S. citizens. Thus an employer can expose himself to the sanctions prescribed, which include a civil penalty of $500 for each failure to maintain the required records.

“Further, it is unconscionable to require employers to act as enforcers of the law. The burden of enforcement properly lies with government officials. The documents to be used to establish the legal status and identity of prospective employees are easily obtained or forged. Is the employer to be held responsible for acceptance of documents so obtained?

“Finally, the requirement for the administration to develop and implement within three years a secure system to determine eligibility for employment could result in the issuance of a national identity card. A system of this nature is anathema to most Americans since it smacks of a police state.

“We urge that responsibility for enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws be left where it belongs – with the federal government. In no way should that responsibility be shifted to employers, who have a right to expect the government to enforce immigration laws so that any suitable prospective employee who presents himself may be hired without fear of violating a federal law.

“Under the circumstances, it is recommended that the employer sanction provisions of the bill be eliminated.”

American Nurseryman magazine is in total agreement with the AAN statements. Small businesses, such as nursery operations, have been hamstrung by government regulations for the past decade. These businesses should not be placed in further jeopardy by becoming extensions of the inept regulatory agencies of the federal government.