A policy that's out of bounds

November 04, 1999

Here is an excerpt of an editorial from the San Jose Mercury News, which was published Friday.

CALL US foolish if you will, but the logic behind the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's new policy extending anti-discrimination protection to undocumented workers seems . . . well, screwy.

It just doesn't compute: A U.S. government agency is going to spend taxpayer dollars to protect people who have no right to be in the country in the first place from being exploited in the workplace. And all the while, that agency is going to refuse, as a matter of policy, to identify those people to the authorities charged with enforcing the immigration laws.

The EEOC has taken a lot of knocks in recent years, some justified and some not. But if it was looking for a way to make itself seem ridiculous, it could hardly have found a better one.

It's important to appreciate who this new policy is not about. It's not about innocent children whose illegal immigrant parents may keep them out of school if they fear teachers would report them to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It's not about people who might refuse to seek needed medical help for fear doctors or hospital staffs might report them to the INS.

This policy is about people who have made an economic calculation: that it is more advantageous for them to work illegally in this country -- even at the risk of exploitation by an unscrupulous employer -- than to remain in their countries of citizenship.

It is also about those employers who hire such people and the calculation they have made: that it is more advantageous to employ such workers, even at the risk of government sanctions, than to hire U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.

Both of those calculations are subversive of the laws on workplace discrimination, which assume that the competition for jobs is among U.S. citizens and others legally entitled to be here.

Illegal immigrants not only skew the competition for jobs, but they also undercut wage levels, particularly at the low end of the income scale. EEOC Chairwoman Ida Castro may suppose that she has struck a blow for fairness and equity with this new policy. In fact, she has all but invited Congress to step up and clip the wings of an arrogant, overreaching government agency.

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