Working from his Woodland Hills, Calif., home office, gadfly Carl Olson is on a mission that should not be as impossible as it seems: He wants local and state governments to follow the law.
Olson, of the watchdog group State Department Watch, has been showing up at board meetings for government entities -- the Ventura County Board of Education, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Los Angeles Community College District -- and asking board members what they are doing to prevent hiring illegal immigrants. Specifically, he wants to know if they use the free federal Basic Pilot program that private employers can check to see if job applicants are authorized to work in America.
So far, Olson has come up empty. When I called these groups, I got nada, too. Still, Olson believes California voters are plenty angry about illegal immigration, so it is only a matter of time before local politicians "feel the heat or see the light."
And: "Elected officials are supposed to be the first bulwark in defense of our rights and liberties here. If they aren't going to defend us, who is?"
Don't look to Sacramento for relief. State Department Watch co-sponsored legislation with state Sen. Bill Morrow, which would have required California to use Basic Pilot when hiring state employees. The bill also required private employers to use Basic Pilot. It got one measly vote in committee.
"The U.S. government doesn't even use its own system on itself," Olson noted. Actually, that's about to change. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Chris Bentley told me his agency is "making that connection right now." That is, the agency is gearing up to use Basic Pilot.
What about other federal agencies? "A handful of government agencies are using Basic Pilot right now," Bentley responded, adding that a new $100 million appropriation will be used to boost private and federal participation. (I should add, law-enforcement agencies generally conduct in-depth security checks.)
And, "We encourage employers across the United States to take advantage of this opportunity," which takes "the guesswork out of employment verification."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun to check the status of people employed at critical infrastructure worksites, to prevent terrorist attacks. In May, ICE agents arrested eight Los Angeles Department of Water and Power workers because they were illegal. Their jobs ranged from blue collar to management. One arrested worker made more than $100,000 a year, according to The Associated Press.
The eight workers came from Ethiopia, Nigeria, El Salvador, Mexico and the Philippines. All but one had entered America legally, but overstayed their visas or did not have green cards. Three workers had green cards or were legal residents, ICE explained in a press release, but they had "criminal convictions that render them deportable."
The raid got Olson's attention. "I was totally floored," he told me, but his "suspicions were confirmed." So he began his quest to find government agencies that want to comply with immigration law. He calls it the Diogenes Honesty Search -- as he is looking for government agencies that show an honest commitment to comply with immigration law.
He wants readers to know they, too, can ask local officials if they are using the free Basic Pilot program. Personally, I can think of no reason for local governments not to use Basic Pilot -- unless they want to break the law. If those elected or appointed to administer laws do not themselves respect the law, why should voters respect them?