Senator Marc Cote: A Call to Action – Representative Government at Risk in RI
If you or members of your family are currently unemployed, please take notice of the following.
Whether or not you’ve spoken out about past government abuse, now is the time to be heard!
Last week’s orchestrated procedural shenanigans by the leadership of the State Senate to stifle debate and deliberation, and temporarily kill reasonable legislation to address a labor injustice that is caused by illegal immigration should outrage Rhode Islanders who expect open and accountable government.
The bill in question (2010 S-2348 E-Verify) is cosponsored by 19 of 38 senators, and statewide polling shows that the majority of Rhode Islanders support this legislation. The Rhode Island House of Representative has passed this legislation during the past two legislative sessions, and has yet to vote on the bill this year.
Recent news reports have provided concrete evidence that there are employers in this region and within our state that are intentionally violating the law by hiring individuals who are not legally authorized to work in this country. In some cases, employers are also conspiring with individuals who participate in the fraudulent document and identity theft industry to advance this scheme.
These rogue employers are driven by their greed and self-interest. They take advantage of these unauthorized immigrants by hiring them at less than market labor rates – recognizing that the employees’ illegal status prevents them from pressing for fairness and equality in the labor marketplace.
The 2007 enforcement action at the Michael Bianco Company in New Bedford has demonstrated that United States citizens and legal immigrants are being deprived of employment by unscrupulous employers. The owner and upper management of this company were arrested for hiring 360 illegal workers — and within days, over 400 formerly unemployed New Bedford area residents applied for the job openings after the enforcement action.
On April 4, 2009, U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi sentenced the owner of Falcon Maintenance LLC of Johnston to 60 days of imprisonment in a federal halfway house, three years of probation and a $10,000 fine for the long-time practice of hiring illegal immigrants, of not withholding the appropriate taxes from their pay, and of lying about participating in the E-Verify system which is now required of state contractors.
On July 28 of last year, a Channel 12 investigative reporter revealed that a subcontractor hired an illegal immigrant to work under-the-table to build, of all things, the new federal immigration building in Johnston. The scandal came to light after the undocumented worker claimed a subcontractor failed to pay him and others for their work. The worker also claimed he was not the only one working illegally at the site.
Some employers unwittingly harbor violent criminals when they employ illegal aliens. In 2008, a young Providence woman was raped in Roger Williams Park by an illegal alien with a prior history of assault who had been employed at a local Texas Roadhouse restaurant. This criminal was sentenced to 30-years at the ACI at our collective expense, which will likely exceed $2 million dollars, adjusted for inflation.
It is estimated that there are about 20,000 unauthorized immigrants currently working in Rhode Island – working in jobs that should be made available to the 72,000 currently unemployed Rhode Islanders.
The legislation that was procedurally and unjustly “killed” by the Senate leadership last week would accomplish this objective by requiring that Rhode Island employers register and participate in the federal basic employment verification program known as “E-Verify”.
In Rhode Island, the program is currently mandatory for state and federal contractors only. However, it is already used by over 2,200 Rhode Island employers, and this legislation would make it mandatory for 16,000 additional employers in this state. This would level the playing field for those conscientious employers, so that they are not disadvantaged by doing the right thing and hiring only legal workers.
If you care about the costs of illegal hiring practices to your family and friends by unscrupulous employers in Rhode Island, please call Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed at 222-6655, and Majority Leader Daniel Connors at 222-3310 and respectfully ask for a vote on the E-Verify bill by the full Senate.
This is your opportunity to make your voice heard, and I respectfully ask for your support. Should you have any questions, you can contact me at 765-3360.
State Senator Marc Cote (D) represents Woonsocket and North Smithfield.