Chris Matthews of the mainstream media and Jon Stewart, the faux newscaster on Comedy Central, have been all abuzz this week over the resilience of a pernicious and persistent claim by conspiracy theorists and immigration opponents. They claim that Barack Obama is an illegal immigrant (born not in Hawaii but in Kenya) who never naturalized as a U.S. citizen, and in any case, is not eligible to serve as President because (they claim) he is not a “natural born citizen” of the U.S., as required by Article II, Section 1, Clause 4 of the Constitution. The claim surfaced in federal court before the 2008 election but was dismissed.
Now, with illustrious spokespersons like convicted Watergate bungler G. Gordon Liddy, and Dr. Orly Taiz (a multi-tasking dentist, real estate agent and attorney), the diehard anti-Obama “birther movement” continues to make fantastical and facetious claims.
Another crazy who opposes immigration is an anonymous prankster with bad grammar. The prankster has lately been sending out a letter to employers, seemingly on the masthead of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Los Angeles. Emblazoned “First Notice,” the document purports to order the employer to verify the employment eligibility of employees and to demand to see each worker’s social security card, citizenship papers, green card or work permit:
“Due to resolution pass [sic] in Congress E [sic], you are obligated to verify all employees [sic] legal status . . . [and] report all illegal and illegal [sic] activities.”
The notice also includes an attachment to send to ICE with the name, contact information and biodata of any persons illegally in the United States. When the letter surfaced, the local chapter of a national immigration bar association reached out to the purported letter writer – a real DHS official named John Salter, and here is the chapter’s report:
Mr. Salter was contacted for his confirmation as to whether the letter was sent by him and if it was not, to advise us of ICE/OCC’s official position on the matter. His response was that: (1) he did not author such a letter, (2) that they are aware of these letters, (3) that the ICE Office of Investigations will be reviewing this matter, and that (4) he would request that we advise any businesses that receive such a letter to please save the letter and accompanying envelope. He also said that pending more detailed information, our members can send the letters to the ICE Special Agent in Charge’s office for action.
If an employer were to follow the prankster’s instructions, the likely outcome is that the employer would engage in “document abuse” — an illegal act under the immigration laws — by demanding to see particular documents of identity and employment eligibility rather than allowing the employee to choose which documents to present. The employer would also likely expose the business to liability under state and federal employment laws. The doctrine of “constructive knowledge” which (in appropriate cases) triggers the duty to investigate could not possibly apply here because the letter writer’s mangled grammar and syntax, though laughable, could not have come from ICE.
Whatever this blogger’s differences with the agency, they know how to write a well-turned document, as their constant flurry of press releases shows. Let’s hope ICE takes the steps necessary to apprehend and prosecute this fraudster-with-funny-phrasing who encourages violations of the laws against employment discrimination. Meantime, I can’t wait till Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert take on this un-hip hypster.