Dear Reader: Please Encourage USCIS Do the Right Thing!

By David North on April 17, 2012

This is a suggestion to my readers on how you can help USCIS do the right thing with a document that is absolutely vital to the employer sanctions program.

The agency is in the middle of revising Form I-9, the form used about 70 million times a year by newly hired workers. Its purpose, though you might not know it from reading the form, is to keep illegal aliens (unauthorized workers) away from U.S. jobs.

The main problem with the form is that it opens on a distracting (one might think deliberately distracting) theme. It says "ANTI-DISCRIMINATION NOTICE" and tells people that they should not abuse the form by asking too many questions of job applicants.

Yes, there is a provision in the law to that effect, but it is like a notice regarding the illegal poaching of elephants that starts with a series of strict warnings about how one should not abuse violators of the "don't kill the elephants" law. The point of the law is to save the lives of elephants. And yes, you should not shoot poachers in the back, but that's far from the point of the exercise.

The first three lines, in bold type, on the I-9 Form should be a clarion call for keeping illegal aliens out of the workplace, with a passing suggestion that the employer should also be careful not to over-apply the law and should read the instructions for the form.

What I would like you, dear reader, to do is this:

  1. Read the current version of the Form I-9 at pp. 4 and 5.

  2. Read my formal, detailed comments below.

  3. Write your own comments on this matter, using your own words, not mine. Tell the agency that this is important, that it will help cut illegal immigration, and that the document needs to be strong and should be addressed primarily to the workers and only secondarily to employers. The deadline for receipt of comments is May 29, 2012.

  4. Send your comments to USCIS, adding OMB Control Number 1615-0047 in the subject box or other heading of your text. Contact the agency in one of three ways:

    Email: [email protected]
    Fax: (202) 272-8352
    DHS/USCIS/Office of Policy and Strategy
    Sunday Aigbe, Acting Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division
    20 Massachusetts Ave. NW
    Washington, DC 20529

  5. It would be helpful if you varied the postal address to avoid a mass production perception. Spell out or abbreviate "DHS" or "Massachusetts" or "Avenue", for example. The letter, if postal, could start "Dear Chief Aigbe", "Dear Sunday Aigbe", or "To: Sunday Aigbe", or it could have no salutation at all.

  6. I have used the CIS affiliation in the text of my comments; others probably will have other affiliations. If you can speak as a retired federal employee, a veteran, a farmer, a taxpayer, a college professor, an HR type, or whatever, please do so.

My filing follows.

Re: OMB Control Number 1615-0047

Greetings, Sunday Aigbe:

I write to you regarding the redesign of the extremely important Form I-9, which is the main protection American jobs have from unauthorized workers (illegal aliens). I do so on behalf of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), where I am a Fellow. CIS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank headquartered in Washington that examines the impact of international migration on American systems. We are pro-immigrant, but opposed to the exploitation of workers of all kinds, aliens and legal residents.

The I-9 should be redesigned so that it encourages complete and honest responses from the 70 million or so workers who use it each year. It should clearly state its mission, which is to sort out authorized workers from unauthorized ones. There are other, lesser corrections that also need to be included.

I make one major, and four minor recommendations, as follows:

  1. The objective of the form is to keep illegal immigrants out of the labor market; you cannot tell that from its current text. Further, the principal users of the form are workers, yet the bold copy at the head of the form is a message to employers about not asking too many questions of their workers. That needs to be changed.

    The opening message should be something like this:

    Workers: this form is designed to preserve American jobs for authorized residents of the United States, so please help by filling it out carefully and honestly. Employers: read the instructions and handle this document in such a way as to not endanger the rights of any of your workers.

    The suggested text fits easily within the available space.

  2. Add a space for a telephone number wherever there is a name. This will both give the document more immediacy and will make it easier for an employer to contact a worker to ask questions. This can be done by a little squeezing of the form.

  3. I would suggest that your ultimate supervisor, the Secretary of DHS, is a very modern person and would not want the out-of-date, mildly sexist term "maiden name" to be used in Section 1 and that she would prefer something like "birth name if different". Ask her!

  4. I would reorder the four categories of people authorized to work in the United States, further down in Section 1, to put the obscure "noncitizen national" in the bottom row. After all, IRCA does not apply to American Samoa where the bulk of these nationals live. Placing the category, as it is now, between citizen and LPR, just invites confusion.

  5. Speaking of distant places, box 6 in List A (acceptable documents) is incorrect. Persons bearing a passport from the Republic of Palau (PW) should be added to those from FSM and RMI. People from Palau can work in the United States legally as more or less permanent nonimmigrants, as can people from FSM and RMI. The legal citation is P.L. 99-658, section 141. In some government documents the abbreviation is RP; you can avoid the initials problem by not using abbreviations for any of these Associated States.