Grassroots Effort to Curb Illegal Immigration
Posted by Joshua Price on November 1, 2007
There is another fantastic example of everyday Americans taking action at the grassroots level to help protect America in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Earlier this year, Dallas, Texas, lawyer David Marlett wanted to hire a contractor to paint his house, but only one with legal employees.
He made a lot of calls and ended up doing the job himself.
“It’s important that we draw the line somewhere,” he said.
Marlett believes illegal immigration is wrong and hiring illegal immigrants is even worse.
In an effort to change the system, he started a Web site — www.ProAmericaCompanies.com — where companies can sign a pledge that they will not “knowingly hire illegal or undocumented workers” and report anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.
The ProAmerica Web site was launched in June and already has 920 businesses on board in 44 states, including Georgia, Marlett says. It has also led to donations and a plan to open a ProAmerica lobbying office in Washington. Several regional chapters are also sprouting across the country.
ProAmerica is a nonprofit organization and companies do not have to pay to be posted on the site.
Although no one is verifying that the companies are honoring the pledge, Marlett said their word is enough. “We either trust or we go home,” he said.
Marlett said his group is “not hard line” and does not want to insult illegal immigrants, who he likens to indentured servants.
Instead, he advocates “a positive solution” to the problem. He said Americans can’t criticize illegal immigrants while buying products from companies that hire them. Businesses that use illegal labor gain an unfair advantage over their competitors who don’t, he said.
“Why in the world in this country are we punishing law-abiding companies?” he asked.
The businesses on the ProAmerica list, which consumers can find with an easy Website search, are mostly small, including contractors, roofing companies, and bed-and-breakfast operations. One of the larger companies is a Costco store in Palm Desert, Calif. Marlett said he wants to increase the network to 3,000 businesses by the end of the year and then try to recruit larger companies, such as hotel chains.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has lobbied aggressively for an immigration bill that includes a large temporary worker program and a path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants, declined to comment on ProAmerica.
Although most companies pledge that they are trying to follow the law, millions of illegal immigrants are working in the United States, she said.
In Georgia, at least 10 companies have signed up, including a couple of landscaping firms, a gun repair shop, an auto parts store, and a broadcast production company.
ProAmerica provides a free service to help companies use a Department of Homeland Security worker verification system called E-verify that compares employee information with millions of government records. Many businesses and civil rights groups have argued that the poor quality of government databases poses a major problem with the system.
Marlett said that business owners who hire illegal immigrants should be taken out in handcuffs in front of the media.
“You do a few perp walks of some of these employers and you’ll shut this thing down in a heartbeat,” he said.
Marlett has a strong supporter in the U.S. Congress — Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who replaced the late Rep. Charlie Norwood, who took a hard line against illegal immigration.
Broun said that Marlett’s “grassroots, market-based enforcement efforts are proving to be an effective addition to federal enforcement efforts.”
“ProAmerica companies do not hire or employ anyone who is in the country illegally. By allowing consumers to easily identify companies that comply with our immigration laws, ProAmerica companies harness market forces to provide law-abiding businesses with a competitive advantage,” he said.
Broun added that the idea is similar to ‘Made in the USA’ labels, which allow consumers to support producers of American made products.
Benjamin Bodnar, who owns Integrity Landscape Management in Hampton, Ga., said he heard about ProAmerica on a television news show and wanted to sign up immediately.
He said that illegal immigrants are a burden on society and that Americans would do the same jobs if employers paid “a decent wage.”
“I don’t hire illegals and I let my clients know that we have 100 percent American labor,” Bodnar said.
This is great to hear. Mr. Martlett is dead on. If we start severely fining and imprisoning corporate officers who knowingly hire ( or allow to be hired) illegals we suddenly take away the incentive for hiring them.
We are going to link to the site under our blogroll.