In the name of being absolutely sure that undocumented immigrants cannot collect unemployment benefits, Senator Tisei filed an amendment to require that everybody filing for those benefits “prove” citizenship when they apply by going to an office and presenting a driver’s license. Right now, if you are laid off, you can apply for unemployment insurance over the telephone. Your Social Security Number is cross-checked then against numerous federal databases (and continues to be cross-checked during the entire period you are collecting unemployment). If there is a problem with your Social Security Number, the agency let’s you know. Otherwise, the electronic paperwork says you’re OK.
The state has estimated that Senator Tisei’s amendment to require everybody filing for unemployment to go to an office and produce a driver’s license would require, for starters, an additional 25-35 employees at a cost between $1.5 and $2.45 million. And those employees would not be streamlining paperwork, they’d be adding to it.
So down the road if you get laid off and can’t file for UI over the phone as you can right now because continuous database cross-checks exclude to a vanishing point the possibility that you are an undocumented immigrant, and you have to go in to an agency office like the other 7000 people laid off that month to have a copy of your driver’s license made, thank Senator Tisei, the champion of Streamlining Electronic Paperwork.
Another contradiction in Senator Tisei is more ominous.
Yesterday, May 26, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition held a press conference to protest the anti-immigrant agenda of many of the amendments to the Senate budget. At the press conference, the state Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) unfortunately forgot a cardinal rule of State Houses everywhere — politicians always think you’re talking about them. So when he said that sometimes radio talk show hosts, columnists and politicians ratchet things up beyond where they should go and in this case have begun to echo the language of racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis when it comes to the illegal immigrant debate it was seized upon as a very grave matter.
Which brings me to a speech yesterday afternoon from Senator Tisei. You’ll have to take my word for this, because the state won’t let me link it, but I can tell you that you can find it at mass.gov/legis, then look for it as a recording of the Senate Session for 5/26/10. It went something like this: Since I’ve been in this building, I’ve been on opposite sides of debate with people…[but at] the press conference that took place this morning, they said if you support the rule of law, you’re a white supremacist and a neo-Nazi. It’s a disgrace, Madame President. I would hope that you would say something and let it be known that that type of language and accusations and name-calling should not be permitted here in the Legislature. The governor often says words matter. Some of the words used today shouldn’t have been used.
Maybe the state’s ADL director could have said “Sean Hannity” and “Rush Limbaugh,” which is probably what he meant. But he said “politicians.” And he said it in the State House. And so he was reprimanded.
But today, as Senator Tisei was speaking in favor of another of his amendments, which would let more employers classify their employees as independent contractors (that is, no bennies) rather than employees (that is, yes, bennies), with no hesitation — almost routinely — he compared the state workers who audit employers to determine whether their employees are independent contractors or employees to “jihadists” and “storm troopers.” (Again you have to take my word for it for now.)
I may be wrong, and would like to be, but I don’t think anybody in the Senate said a word when Senator Tisei forgot what he had said the day before. Neo-nazi’s are not the same as jihadists, depending on what they’re calling for.
PS – as of 7 PM on Thursday 5/27, the Senate hasn’t come to a decision about Senator’s Tisei’s paperwork efficiency amendment.