Protect the Public, Not the Illegal Aliens

By Jessica M. Vaughan on June 9, 2009

The Rhode Island legislature is currently considering a bill to require the state’s employers to verify that all new employees are legal workers. Introduced by two Woonsocket-area Democrats, Sen. Marc Cote and Rep. Jon Brien, it passed the RI House in April, by a vote of 38-33. Massachusetts lawmakers should take note — this is a common sense approach to a problem that burdens our state as well.

For the third year in a row, the bill is being held up by a Senate Committee that for some reason seems loath to bring it to a vote, despite enormous public support for the bill, as evidenced by strong turnout for the hearing on May 14. The committee heard testimony from citizens outraged at the fiscal and socal strain illegal immigration imposes on their communities and also from advocates for illegal aliens who maintain that E-Verify, the screening system mandated by the bill, would cause discrimination in hiring.

The testimony that I found to be most compelling was submitted to the committee in writing, and later e-mailed to me by the writer, who had heard that I followed the issue. She wanted the committee to hear a story that is not often considered by our lawmakers — one to remind them that illegal immigration can harm citizens in ways more serious and personal than job losses and the cost of social services.

Here is her story, below. Ironically, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Michael J. McCaffrey, which is holding up this bill, represents Warwick, where this horrible incident occurred.

On June 8th of last year something happened to me that was the most terrifying event of my life. After spending the day with my family celebrating my cousin’s recent graduation from college, my mom had to make a brief stop at a store in a shopping plaza in Warwick. I decided to stay in the car since she was only going to be a few minutes. Shortly after my mom went into the store someone opened the car door and at that moment I experienced a fear that I had never felt before as a man got into the driver’s side of the car. I thought maybe he was confused and didn’t realize he was getting into the wrong vehicle. That was until I saw the knife. After taking my money and credit card he drove me to Roger Williams Park where he had stopped the car on the side of the road and told me to get out. I thought he was letting me go but that was not the case. Instead, he ended up sexually assaulting me twice in the park that day. He was arrested a few days later after footage of him appeared on the local news and a co-worker at the restaurant, where he had worked, recognized him.

The police had difficulty identifying my attacker because he had false identification. It turned out he was an illegal alien with a criminal record who was also wanted by ICE. This man was able to stay in our community and get a job at Texas Roadhouse using false documents. If Texas Roadhouse (and all other employers in RI) had been using E-Verify, he would not have been able to stay here so easily to take advantage of us. This tool has been available to employers for many years, but they choose not to use it. It will detect people using false documents to get jobs. Incredibly, Texas Roadhouse and hundreds of other employers in the state are still not using E-Verify. They seem not to care who they are employing, and what danger they may pose to the rest of the community. This legislation is necessary to ensure that they check out their workers, to save jobs for citizens and legal immigrants, but also to keep individuals who try to hide their identity or their immigration status from getting jobs.

After I heard about the many times this man had been taken into custody prior to the incident and then later released I had hope that things would change to prevent another crime like this from happening but nothing has changed. There are a lot of people here who are concerned about the welfare of illegal immigrants, and that is their right to speak about that, but I am here tonight to help you remember those who have been harmed by illegal immigration, so that they are not forgotten in the debate.

When I hear people protesting the E-Verify program it seems that a major concern is the monetary cost of implementing and maintaining the E-Verify program but what about the human cost if E-Verify is not used in the hiring process? Are we willing to continue to take that chance? I do not think that all illegal immigrants who reside in the US are violent criminals but we do need to put something in place for the ones that do have ill intentions. We cannot continue to allow those who are dangerous to hide in plain sight within the community, working with false documents without risk of being caught. E-verify should not be considered a burden but a useful tool in preventing unauthorized workers from getting a job. The crime against me is a crime that should never happen again and this state needs to start doing what is necessary to protect the legal citizens of Rhode Island.

And while we’re at it, should concerned citizens be eating at Texas Roadhouse any more, or the establishment of any other employer who refuses to verify the status of its workers? Not when we can patronize Papa Ginos, Dunkin Donuts, or any of the 120,000-some other employers who do care enough to hire only legal workers. Find out who they are here.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out Judge: ACLU Wrong on E-Verify and Protect the public, not the criminals.