The House Labor Committee has advanced legislation that would require anyone applying for a job in Iowa to produce a valid photo I.D. Representative Rick Olson, a Democrat from Des Moines, says as an employer, he wants to know his employees are who they say they are. "The last thing in the world is I want the police knocking at my door, wanting to find out that my secretary isn’t who she said she was, but was an escaped convict from Timbuktu," Olson says.
Supporters say the measure also will protect against identity theft, but Bernard Ortiz, a union organizer from Altoona, says it would essentially legalize racial profiling. "It really is a shame that our politicians chose to take the easy route which is point the finger and blame the immigrants for everything instead of using their mental capacity and do something positive with it," Ortiz says.
Democratic leaders in the Iowa legislature initially proposed huge fines and lengthy prison terms for business owners who knowingly hire undocumented workers, but discovered federal law wouldn’t allow state to make such a move. The bill, therefore, merely proposes charging Iowa business owners who fail to properly verify a new hire’s I.D. with perjury. Perjury carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $7500 fine.
Ortiz, the union organizer who’s originally from Mexico, is a now a U.S. citizen and he argues statehouse Democrats have betrayed immigrants who will find it much more difficult to find a job if the bill becomes law in Iowa. "It’s going to make me and anybody of color, anybody that’s got a name that’s not ‘American’ to be possibly discarded to the side," Ortiz says.
Representative Olson says while he sympathizes, the bill is a response to growing chorus of concern from a majority of Iowans. "People were not in favor of those illegal be in the United States, working, and not paying their fair share (in taxes) and not starting on the process to become citizens," Olson says.
The bill has now survived a deadline to make it out of committee by this Friday and its next hurdle is debate in the full, 100-member Iowa House.