Commissioner Jenkins Undeterred

Earlier this year, Frederick County Commissioner Chuck Jenkins suffered a set back when his proposal to require county agencies verify the immigration status of non-citizens seekinger services was tabled and not sent to the General Assembly for consideration. But Jenkins is undeterred in his, sometimes solo, battle to curb the effects of illegal immigration on our community. Jenkins is now exmaning the possibility of cracking down on businesses in Frederick county that hire illegal immigrants.

Now, Jenkins wants the county to withhold building permits to companies that hire illegal immigrants. Mathias said he is looking into whether county government has that authority.

‘‘I’m looking into it, but I don’t have the answer yet,” Mathias said. ‘‘County government doesn’t have a huge role in determining who is here legally. It’s largely the federal government.”

For Jenkins to move forward with the idea, he would need support from his board colleagues. Board President Jan H. Gardner (D) has said she thinks Congress should tackle the issue of illegal immigration in the workplace.

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‘‘The buck stops with the federal government,” Gardner said. ‘‘There are laws governing employment and prohibiting the employment of illegal or undocumented workers. The issue isn’t the lack of laws, but rather the lack of enforcement. The federal government is responsible for enforcement.”

Jenkins is trying to address illegal immigration, he says, because he believes the federal government has failed to protect the U.S. border. He argues that local governments across the country are enforcing their own laws to address the issue because of failure on the federal level.

No one is arguing that the federal government has the duty to manage immigration. The argument is that the feds are not doing their job and like all other elected officials, including Jenkins and his colleagues on the County Commission, local officials take an oath to upload the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the United States. Immigration is covered by laws and it is not unreasonable to conclude that in the absence of federal enforcement, that state and local officials should do all they can to curb illegal immigration. That means limiting the issueance of building permits to companies that hire illegal immigrants.

A large portion of the illegal immigrant population is engaged in three industries, food service, domestic services and construction. If the county doesn’t permit a company to build anything because they hire illegals, then so much the better.

Not surprisingly, the Frederick County Builders Association doesn’t like Jenkins’ proposal:

According to Bryan Patchan, executive director of the professional trade association, industry-wide, employers are unaware how many of the immigrants they hire are in the country illegally. ‘‘It’s another thing that is putting the burden on the employer,” he said.

When workers are hired they are required to show their employers a special work card and Social Security card. But they can be forged and difficult for employers to verify.

Patchan said that the building industry in the county makes every attempt to check all identification and paperwork.

Now it doesn’t take a genius to know that builders might do such checks for their full-time employees but such efforts are not done for day laborers, which often comprise the bulk of the semi- and unskilled labor used on some construction sites. Right now there is no incentive for builders to do the checks on their workers, as there are no penalties involved in hiring illegals. But if a builder cannot get a permit because they cannot prove they don’t hire illegal immigrants then there is a penalty–they can’t do their work or get other jobs and they go out of business.

I am not out to punish legitimate businesses who may hire a worker full time with forged papers. However, a builder who routinely hires day laborers runs the risk of being put out of business, it is a simple as that. Just because the federal government doesn’t enforce the rules doesn’t mean that all levels of government should ignore the rules.

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