Springfield News-Leader: Employers That Hire Illegals Should Pay
June 15, 2006
By Ruppy Singh
Campaigning in Springfield on Thursday, U.S. Senate candidate and Missouri Auditor Claire McCaskill said Sen. Jim Talent and the Bush administration have failed to hold the companies that employ illegal immigrants accountable.
"We need tougher border security. We need to prosecute illegal immigrants," McCaskill said as she stood before the federal courthouse.
"But we also need to attack the problem at the source, a true crackdown on the corporations ... that employ these workers for cheap labor," she said.
If illegal immigrants don't have jobs, they won't have any reason to stay in the U.S., McCaskill said.
A spokesman for the Talent campaign disputed McCaskill's assertions and insisted that Talent supports tough standards on employee verification.
The number of companies prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers has dropped 99 percent since Talent went to Congress, McCaskill said.
Three employers were fined in 2004 for hiring illegal aliens, she said, compared with 909 fined in 1995, 240 in 1999 and 124 in 2003.
"Why was it that only three entities were fined when hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are pouring across the border?" McCaskill asked.
McCaskill said she supports increased border security but "we are absolutely kidding ourselves if we think we can stop illegal immigration without hitting at the root cause of the problem, which is businesses hiring illegal immigrants."
She also accused Talent of accepting money from agricultural companies tied to illegal immigrant labor.
"Talent is this year's number one senator to get funding from five big agricultural corporations that have ties to hiring illegal immigrants," she said.
Said Talent spokesman Rich Chrismer: "Clearly, Claire McCaskill has not read Senator Talent's speeches or his legislation on border security."
He also accused McCaskill of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants but later changing her position.
"When Claire McCaskill says one thing in Columbia and another in Springfield, this campaign will hold her accountable," he said.
Chrismer was referring to McCaskill's interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune, in which she had asked for a look at ways for "the people who are in the U.S. illegally can pay for the crime they've committed without being a further burden on taxpayers."
He defended Talent's receipt of contributions from agricultural companies, saying the donations were made because of the senator's support of Missouri farmers and ranchers.
Jacci Harris, one of three protesters at the courthouse appearance, objected to McCaskill's alleged support for amnesty.
"I think she is bringing amnesty to illegal aliens and I think that is wrong," Harris said.
"We think that there should be many, many walls to stop illegal immigrants."
Matt Morrow, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield, said that even though most businesses try not to hire illegal immigrants, it can be difficult to ascertain their immigration status.
The illegal immigrants have false documents in some cases, he said, and "There are no specific guidelines on how to authenticate those documents."
Morrow said it would be wrong to punish employers who are trying to do the right thing.
"Those employers who are hiring illegal employees on purpose, by all means, punish them."
McCaskill said she came to Springfield to talk about immigration because Talent's campaign has often misrepresented her position on the topic.
"I don't support amnesty for illegals but it looks like Senator Talent is for amnesty for the employers," she said.
McCaskill said that if elected she would propose harsher penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants.