Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baird's Hiring of Illegal Aliens Spotlights Nationwide Violations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baird's Hiring of Illegal Aliens Spotlights Nationwide Violations

Article excerpt

ZOE BAIRD, the erstwhile nominee for attorney general, caught heavy flak for hiring two illegal aliens as domestic servants. But hundreds of thousands of United States residents are equally guilty.

Specialists on immigration say an estimated 2 million to 3 million undocumented illegal aliens in the US hold down full-time jobs.

Many, like the two Peruvians hired by Ms. Baird, work as domestic servants. Even more are employed in restaurants, factories, and outdoors in farming, fishing, and forestry.

Baird paid a heavy price for her violation. She was forced by public anger to withdraw her nomination. But most violators, including many wealthy Americans, escape penalties.

With unemployment high, and firms such as Sears and General Motors laying off thousands, Baird's hiring of illegals sent a wave of fury through middle America. Analysts say no recent event has so sharply drawn a line between working-class Americans and rich elites.

Baird's defenders called her violation "technical." She reminded the Senate Judiciary Committee that hiring her domestic workers was a civil violation, not a criminal one. Three such violations, however, turn it into a criminal offense, punishable by prison terms and heavy fines.

Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says the incident "underscores the whole national debate about exploitation and hiring of illegal aliens."

President Bush, in a report to Congress in July 1991, warned that tolerance of illegal immigration is eroding respect for the law.

Hiring illegals was not always against the law. But in the 1980s, Congress became concerned that a flood of illegals was taking away jobs from US citizens.

After heated debate, lawmakers passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which made it unlawful to hire anyone who did not hold proper documents.

Mr. Bush emphasized the importance of IRCA "to maintain the integrity of our legal system, eliminate the exploitation of unauthorized workers, and reduce associated criminal activity."

Although many citizens violate IRCA with impunity, specialists say the long-term effects on low-income workers can be serious. …

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