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McCaskill: Washington Caused Immigration Crisis

Location: St. Louis, MO

McCaskill: Washington Caused Immigration Crisis

June 22, 2006

As Corporate Agriculture's #1 Senator to Fund, Jim Talent Allowed Prosecution of Employers for Illegal Hires to Drop by 99% since 1995

ST. LOUIS -- Standing in front of the Eagleton Federal Court House in St. Louis, U.S. Senate Candidate Claire McCaskill showed how the Republican Congress looked the other way while penalties for employers that hire illegal immigrants dropped by 99%, serving as a catalyst for the immigration crisis we now face. McCaskill outlined her plan to toughen our borders and crack down on those who violate our laws.

"When it comes to the immigration debate, Washington is strangely silent on one major aspect -- the employers," McCaskill said. "Since 1995, penalties on employers that hire illegal immigrants have dropped by 99%. It's no wonder when you see that Senators, like our own Jim Talent, are taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from these companies who exploit illegal workers for cheap labor. This little game of corporate back scratching has caused the immigration crisis we now face."

McCaskill illustrated how the Administration and Congress systematically dismantled all meaningful enforcement of employers of illegal immigrants under their watch. From the early 1990's, when Talent first came to Washington, to 2003, the audits of companies hiring illegal immigrants dropped by 77%. The number of companies sanctioned for hiring illegal immigrants also dropped by 99.6% -- 909 employers were fined in 1995, 240 were fined in 1999, 124 in 2003 and only three employers were fined for hiring illegal immigrants in 2004.

McCaskill noted that in addition to an abysmal record on prosecution, the Bush Administration showed they had no intention of making a crack down on immigration a priority when they nominated a very inexperienced Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Much like that of Mike Brown, the former head of FEMA, Myers has no experience with immigration laws or enforcement. She has been charged with managing over 20,000 employees and a $4 billion budget to oversee the detaining and removal of illegal immigrants, investigating smuggling, illegal exports and money laundering as well as the fining of employers that hire illegal immigrants.

"National news publications warned us that this political hire would lead to another Mike Brown-FEMA disaster and it has," McCaskill said. "This is another example of how Washington's wink-wink, nod-nod system allows them to talk tough on illegal immigration while still letting an unqualified political crony and big corporate contributors run the country into the ground. It's clearly time for a Senator who is on the side of the American worker."

Offering real solutions to the immigration crisis in America, McCaskill outlined an aggressive proposal to increase border security and institute stricter regulations on employers that exploit illegal immigrants for cheap labor. McCaskill said it was outrageous for the Administration and Congress to have failed to fully fund Border Patrol agents until an election year. Due to their negligence, there are now 12 million undocumented workers in the United State. A security fence and increased surveillance are only the first steps to addressing this crisis.

McCaskill stated that current penalties are meaningless to giant corporations. She proposed that first time offenders of hiring illegal workers are fined $10,000 per illegal immigrant and receive up to 6 months in jail; second time offenders are fined $25,000 per illegal immigrant and receive up to 1 year in jail, and third time offenders are fined $50,000 per illegal immigrant and receive no less than one year in jail. McCaskill also proposed instituting a new electronic employment verification system, which Senator Jim Talent opposed, and designating more workplace inspectors to investigate violations. She also called for the creation of an Assistant Attorney General to head immigration litigation and enforcement in the Federal Courts.

Last week at a press conference in Springfield, McCaskill asserted that Senator Jim Talent supports amnesty for employers who give American jobs to illegal immigrants based on his issue position and record. Talent is listed as the number one Senator this cycle to fund by five big agricultural corporations, including Tyson Foods Inc., with ties to hiring illegal workers and, as a result, Talent has allowed illegal immigration enforcement to go by the wayside.

"If Senator Talent wants to start talking tough about immigration as an election year tactic, he's going to have to explain why he hasn't fought for our American jobs by enforcing our immigration laws," McCaskill said. "Five of the country's top agriculture coporations have two things in common: they have all been associated with hiring illegal immigrants and have all made Senator Talent their number one Senator to fund this year."

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