A Letter to Senator Kerry
Dear Senator Kerry,
I was aghast to read your response to my email on the subject of requiring people to get Federal government approval to work. It is the sort of totalitarian policy I would expect from some right wing fascist dictatorship. I am especially stunned see a former nominee of the Democrat party send out a letter under his name defending such illiberal policies.
Let us ignore the obvious peril of permitting someone like a Bush appointee telling employers whom they may or may not hire. Let us pretend that people will never be victimized by enemies withing the government. Instead, let us pretend that this law will not be abused.
First, let us examine what you call an ‘illegal worker’. I assume that you are not implying that people are somehow illegal. That notion hopefully died with the victory of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. I am sure that what you meant was that rather some people are working illegally, i.e. without your permission.
So let us examine what workers do.
Workers produce things. When they work for pay, selling their labor services to some customer who needs help getting something done, both the workers and the customer benefit. The worker of course gets the wage that he values more than his time. The customer gets the wealth created by the labor which they value more than the money they expend in paying for it.
In effect, two people (or one person and a company, or two companies) decide to engage in trade. You have declared that some of these relationships are illegal. I assume that you believe that these transactions should be illegal because someone was harmed (the alternative is too depraved to consider). Obviously, the people engaged in the practice you want to make illegal are not harmed; they wouldn’t enter into these arrangements if they didn’t feel that the trade was better than not trading at all. Obviously the person who is harmed is someone else – someone not involved in the trade.
It is clear that you want the customer to be forced to deal only with a subset of labor sellers. Much like the segregationists in Virginia who sought to prevent black people from marrying whomever they wished and limit them to only marrying other black people, you want to force employers only to employ people you approve of. Of course this is ridiculous. Am I harmed because your wife decided to marry you and not me? Is Sacks 5th Avenue harmed because Target makes me a better offer? The very notion is absurd. Like the segregationists in the old south, you are taking your emotional disapproval of how other people interact each other and are threatening them with violence. Of course, you don’t want to dirty your hands; the clubs that beat lawbreakers will be wielded by the police, allowing you to sleep comfortably in bed with no inconvenient memories threatening your delusion that you are somehow a moral person.
Much like the Mr and Mrs Loving who decided to ignore the racists in the Virginia legislature who declared their love ‘illegal’, people are deciding to do business despite your attempts to stop them. You call it an ‘underground’ economy in an attempt to discredit it. What I see are people heroically asserting their right to choose whom they do business with. Of course they hide it from you! If my wife and I had lived in the 60’s in Alabama, we’d hide our marriage from the Ku Klux Klan. The fact that people are hiding from you does not discredit them – rather it discredits you. Think about it! People are hiding from you. They are scared of you. Are you proud of this? Do you consider this an accomplishment? If your son came home from school proudly announcing that he’d bullied someone, would you tell him how proud your were of him?
I am told you are a religious man: when you face your creator on judgement day, I don’t think you will earn many brownie points by telling your maker that your big accomplishment was threatening people who wished to peacefully do business with each other.
In these difficult times it is shameful that an influential senator like yourself is throwing rocks at your countrymen’s efforts to earn a living and improve their lives. I hope you will come to your senses and stop threatening us and let us go about rebuilding our lives.
The letter that triggered my ire below the fold
Dear Mr. XXXX:
Thank you for contacting me regarding employee verification. I appreciate hearing from you on this matter.
I am opposed to the practice of hiring illegal workers and I am greatly concerned with how these practices affect the underground economy. By some estimates, America’s underground economy could reach $1 trillion. At the heart of the issue, too many companies are taking shortcuts and using unlawful hiring practices to gain a competitive edge.
Earlier this year, I chaired a hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Chelsea, Massachusetts to address this issue. Following the hearing, I wrote to President Bush, asking for his Administration to create a special task force to address the growing problem of the underground economy. Additionally, Senator Kennedy and I have introduced legislation that would clarify the misclassification of workers as a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This legislation will increase penalties for businesses that misclassify workers while disregarding labor laws, and educate workers about their rights. It would also improve communication between the U.S. Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and states to enhance coordination and reduce misclassification. I will continue to fight to ensure that all businesses maintain lawful hiring practices and are punished if they break the law.
I also believe the federal government has a responsibility to provide the tools necessary for law-abiding businesses to properly screen and hire workers legally. Programs such as E-verify are on the right track, but we need to take additional steps to ensure that employers can be certain of the system’s accuracy with respect to a worker’s eligibility status.
Finally, we need to give Americans the tools to compete in today’s economy. I believe we must invest in education and job training programs for American workers. We must also reform our current immigration system to allow greater numbers of H-1B and H-2B visas to accurately meet the needs of businesses and further discourage unlawful hiring. As we do our part to help businesses meet their needs, we must also strengthen the consequences for businesses that knowingly break the law.
Comprehensive immigration reform was not enacted into law during the 110th Congress. I will keep your opinions in mind as the Senate considers immigration and labor legislation in the 111th Congress.
Again, I appreciate hearing from you on this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me on this or any issue of concern to you.
John F. Kerry
United States Senator