December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from Caudle Immigration!

Warp speed Mr. Kringle!Image by booleansplit via FlickrCaudle Immigration / The Law Office of Randall Caudle wishes everyone a very Happy Holidays!

The office is closed Dec. 24th to Dec. 28th but will be open most of the week of Dec. 29th.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Hanukkah, a Joyful and Reflective Kwanzaa, and a Peaceful New Year!

December 11, 2008

Protest calls for immigration reform

Supporters demonstrate outside Camarillo detention center


Leaders of local business and community groups called for immigration reform Wednesday in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Camarillo.

Supporters held signs as speakers called for a moratorium on deportations and for respect for immigrants' rights next to a barbed-wire fence surrounding several white ICE vans near the Camarillo Airport.

"They separate working families, do nothing to protect us from terrorists and undermine the economy," said Maricela Morales, associate executive director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, a co-sponsor of the protest.

The date was chosen to coincide with the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.

"It's hard to believe there is a detention center here in Camarillo," said Ana Cristina Flores, a Central Coast Alliance supporter from Oxnard. "You see all the fields, and the people working on them are being detained right across the street."

Gabriela Navarro-Busch, an immigration attorney, said she had tried earlier Wednesday to meet a client being held at the Camarillo facility and was denied. She said she has tried several times to meet with other clients at the facility without success.

"At the county jail, I can go any time," Navarro-Busch said. "These workers have rights. The right to remain silent and the right to counsel Are these individuals' rights being upheld?" she asked rhetorically.

Anyone who is arrested has the right to seek relief from deportation, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. Immigration courts review the cases and apply the law, she said.

"Our job as a federal law enforcement agency is to enforce the laws as enacted by Congress. We don't have the authority to change it or the prerogative to ignore it," Kice said.

ICE is pursuing cases in Ventura County and recently deployed a team here to better handle immigration cases involving fugitives, Kice said.

"The fact that ICE is putting a team in Ventura County is completely ridiculous when you think about who is here," said César Hernández, a Central Coast Alliance community organizing director in Oxnard. "What kind of risk does a farmworker pose, does a mother pose, or a student without legal documentation?"

Hernández recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he participated in a forum in which local activists urged leaders to make immigration reform a priority in the first days of the Obama administration.

"People shouldn't be separated and deported because Washington hasn't gotten their act together," Hernández said. "It's up to the people to get involved."

Cleaning Firm Used Illegal Workers at Chertoff Home

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008; A01

Every few weeks for nearly four years, the Secret Service screened the IDs of employees for a Maryland cleaning company before they entered the house of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the nation's top immigration official.

The company's owner says the workers sailed through the checks -- although some of them turned out to be illegal immigrants.

Now, owner James D. Reid finds himself in a predicament that he considers especially confounding. In October, he was fined $22,880 after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators said he failed to check identification and work documents and fill out required I-9 verification forms for employees, five of whom he said were part of crews sent to Chertoff's home and whom ICE told him to fire because they were undocumented.

"Our people need to know," said the Montgomery County businessman. "Our Homeland Security can't police their own home. How can they police our borders?"

Reid admits he made mistakes but called the fine so excessive that it may put him out of business. Several of his workers moved after ICE agents showed up at their homes, he said.

Raising a common objection among employers as ICE cracks down on illegal hirings across the country, Reid said it is unreasonable to expect businesspeople to distinguish between fake and real driver's licenses and Social Security cards.

Immigration laws are unevenly enforced, he added, allowing big companies to stay in business while crushing small-business owners and workers. He said the rules punish "scapegoats" such as him while inviting people at every level -- customers, subcontractors and contractors -- to look the other way while benefiting economically from cheaper labor.

"No one wants to put the blame on the head; they'd rather put the blame on the business owner," said Reid, who owns Consistent Cleaning Services. "Damned if I should be fined for employees that I took over to their house."

Chertoff declined to comment. "We're very constrained in what we can say about anybody who has any kind of issue with the department," he said.

The Secret Service uses workers' ID information to conduct security checks, not immigration checks, much like most police departments do when they pull over people for traffic stops.

Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the service, which is part of Chertoff's department, declined to discuss specific screening practices. But he said agents protecting the secretary "would have run the appropriate checks, screened and escorted people as appropriate in order to maintain the security of the residence and our protectee's security."

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said that in this type of investigation, ICE focuses on the employers, not where employees are dispatched. He said that contractors have the responsibility of ensuring that their workers are legal, and that the Chertoffs were assured by Reid that workers sent to their home were legal. Upon learning that Reid might have hired illegal immigrants, the Chertoffs fired him, and the secretary recused himself from the department's subsequent enforcement actions, Knocke said.

"This matter illustrates the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the importance of effective tools for companies to determine the lawful status of their workforce," he said.

The Bush administration has pushed to expand employers' use of E-Verify, for instance, an electronic system that can confirm new hires' work documents against federal databases.

In addition to the Chertoffs' house, Reid said, his service once cleaned the Washington home of former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), now secretary of state-designee, as well as homes of another Bush Cabinet member and Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. In those cases, he said, his company worked as a subcontractor and billing was done by a larger contractor firm.

ICE investigated Reid's company under a 1986 federal law barring employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. It provides for civil and criminal penalties against employers who do not examine workers' documents and keep completed I-9 forms.

In February, ICE agents singled out Reid's company, and they subpoenaed two years of payroll and I-9 records this summer, a U.S. official said. Reid was fined $2,750 for hiring violations and $20,130 for not completing paperwork.

His offenses included failing to ask for IDs from or fill out I-9 forms for several workers who turned out to be in the country illegally. Reid said he also did not verify the eligibility of people he knew were native-born U.S. citizens, including himself, his stepbrother, his sister and his sister's friend.

ICE policy states that companies are not randomly selected for scrutiny and that all investigations are based on tips or intelligence. ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Reid was targeted under a year-old initiative called Project Safe Harbor, in which field offices pursue employers in the service, agriculture and fast-food industries.

Nantel declined to say when the Chertoffs learned of the investigation. She likened the couple to restaurant or hotel customers who take the owner's word that its workers are legal.

Reid said he was referred to the Chertoffs in 2005 and worked mainly with the secretary's wife, Meryl J. Chertoff, an adjunct professor and director of the Sandra Day O'Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary at Georgetown Law School. Reid's calendar shows that the Chertoffs paid $185 per visit for his company to clean their suburban Maryland home.

Reid said he routinely asked workers to give personal information to Secret Service agents and assumed the workers were authorized because they were cleared.

Chertoff's situation appeared to be different from a case announced last week in which federal prosecutors arrested Lorraine Henderson, the Boston port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, another part of Chertoff's department, on charges that she repeatedly hired illegal immigrants to clean her condominium.

Staff researcher Julie Tate and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

December 05, 2008

Judge backs U.S. on interrogation policy

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

(12-02) 14:13 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- The government doesn't have to disclose its policies for questioning travelers to the United States about their religious and political views, a federal judge has ruled in dismissing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by two San Francisco legal groups.

The Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed the case in February, saying more than 20 people, mostly South Asian and Muslim, had complained of being interrogated repeatedly at U.S. airports on such subjects as their views on American foreign policy, whether they hated the government and which mosques they had visited abroad.

The suit also sought information on customs agents' searches of travelers entering the country. In response, the Department of Homeland Security provided records this summer showing that the Bush administration has authorized customs agents to read and copy documents without requiring evidence that a traveler has done anything wrong, the legal groups said.

The plaintiff organizations said the government had not responded to their request for guidelines or limits on agents' interrogations of travelers about religion and politics. The nonresponse, they said, was evidence that no such limits exist.

They renewed their request that Homeland Security reveal which topics customs agents are allowed to bring up with travelers, saying the information might show that the government was systematically interfering with free speech.

But U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, in a Nov. 24 ruling in San Francisco, said the government is not required to disclose records that could help people coming to the country for illegal purposes.

Wilken said the department had given her documents for private review that described the subjects about which customs agents could question travelers. She said she had concluded that releasing the information could help people break the law.

On another issue in the suit, Wilken said Homeland Security isn't required to identify the databases that customs agents use in assembling watch lists of hundreds of thousands of names of people who are supposed to be stopped at borders and airports.

She rejected the legal groups' argument that the information should be made public because the government's use of watch lists is common knowledge. The public knows that the lists exists, Wilken said, but lacks information about the investigative techniques' that the government uses and is entitled to keep secret.

Shirin Sinnar, an Asian Law Caucus attorney, said the legal organizations hadn't decided whether to pursue the case further.

"Some serious First Amendment issues have been raised by reports we're getting from travelers," she said. "I believe questioning people on religious practices and political concerns has a chilling effect on people's willingness to engage in lawful activities."

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/03/MNR014FKDN.DTL

Pentagon to recruit aliens on visas

By PAULINE JELINEK

WASHINGTON – Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for the war effort, the Pentagon will temporarily recruit foreigners who have been living in the states on student and work visas, or with refugee or political asylum status.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to recruit certain legal residents whose critical medical and language skills are "vital to the national interest," officials said, using for the first time a law passed three years ago.

Though the military previously has taken recruits with green cards seeking permanent residency, Gates' action allows the services to start a one-year pilot program to find up to 1,000 foreigners who have lived in the states legally for at least two years on certain types of temporary visas.

The new recruits into the armed forces would get accelerated treatment in the process toward becoming U.S. citizens in return for serving in the wartime military in the United States or abroad.

"The services are doing a tremendous job of recruiting quality personnel to meet our various missions," sometimes with bonus pay and tuition for medical school, said Bill Carr, deputy under secretary of defense for military personnel policy. There are currently about 24,000 doctors, dentists and nurses in the Defense Department.

But despite the incentives, the Pentagon's doctor and nurse corps remain 1,000 short of the numbers needed to treat patients, and Carr said he hoped the program would fill the gaps.

The military's most pressing need is for neurosurgeons and dermatologists to treat troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain and burn injuries caused by insurgents' wide use of roadside bombs and suicide bombs.

The force also lacks nurses with a broad range of specialties, Carr said.

It also needs people with special language and cultural skills for a war on terrorism that has taken the armed forces across the globe.

Though the military has been looking for more Arabic speakers and others to help with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new program looks to recruit speakers of some three dozen languages, including Albanian, Korean, Punjabi, Somali and Turkish.

The effort to find the recruits begins early next year. If there is a need for more recruits in the future, it would take a new authorization, Carr said.

Of the 1,000 new recruits, at least a third must be medical professionals, Carr said.

"It is exceptional, limited, vital," he said of the new effort.

The linguists are to be used in a broad range of military jobs now done by troops at home and abroad — as infantrymen, seaman, truck drivers and military policed. Those with the best language skills would be used in intelligence fields.

The armed forces have used foreigners since the War of 1812 — at one time or another some 700,000 have served.

But because of the counterterrorism war started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush signed an executive order in July 2002 making foreigners who join the military eligible to apply immediately for citizenship.

They essentially go to the head of the line among citizenship applicants, having their cases processed in about three years as opposed to the five years it takes others, Carr said.

There are currently 29,000 non-citizens in uniform today, Carr said, with about 8,000 more enlisting every year.

Carr said he expected that among those who will be interested are doctors with work visas who are working at hospitals around the country, a program aimed at tackling shortages among U.S. medical professionals.

The military has never recruited non-green card holders, but a law passed three years ago allows them to do so when it is determined to be vital to the national interest.

Gates on Nov. 25 declared that to be the case for the purpose of getting more doctors, nurses and linguists.

Carr stressed that recruits will have to pass the same physical, mental and aptitude tests required of all who join the armed forces.

Health care workers also will have to meet all medical professional criteria to practice, be proficient in English, and agree to enlist either three years on active duty or six years as reservists.

The linguists/culture experts will have to enlist for four years of active duty service.

ABC Schedules a ‘Homeland Security’ Series

“Homeland Security USA,” a reality show produced with the full cooperation of several agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, will have its premiere on Jan. 6 on ABC.

In an announcement Thursday, ABC said the production “has been given unprecedented access to the agencies,” including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard.

The show will spotlight the work of border patrol officials who work on land, sea and air to keep the United States secure. ABC has ordered 13 episodes of the series; they will be shown on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., opposite “American Idol” on Fox. While reality shows about harrowing jobs have prospered on cable — think of “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers” — they have yet to find an audience on broadcast TV.

When news of the series emerged in May, the show was named “Border Security USA.” Although the name has evolved, the show will still focus on the border patrol mission. Here’s the description of the first episode from ABC:

The premiere episode, “This is Your Car on Drugs,” takes viewers inside some of the busiest international entry points to the U.S. At Los Angeles International Airport, a voluptuous 20-year-old woman arrives from Switzerland with no working papers but a suitcase full of titillating surprises! In the Pacific Northwest, at the Blaine, Washington border crossing, smugglers attempt to foil DHS canines by packing narcotics in baby diapers. Along the border between the U.S. and Mexico in the scorching heat of the desert outside of Tucson, Border Patrol agents race the clock to find six undocumented immigrants lost in the barren wilderness. In one of the most dramatic stories at the San Ysidro, California border crossing, a fake license plate tips a border officer off to a life-threatening situation. Meanwhile, there are some unusual illegal items intercepted at the International Mail Center in Carson, California, including a “delicacy” officers are shocked to discover is actually barbecued bats.

In May, The Hollywood Reporter said the show was “billed as the first multi-episode television series to be shot in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.” The project elicited complaints from some Internet users, who labeled it “propaganda.”

The executive producer, Arnold Shapiro, acknowledged at the time that the show was meant to portray Homeland Security in a good light.

“I love investigative journalism, but that’s not what we’re doing,” he told The Reporter in May. “This show is heartening. It makes you feel good about these people who are doing their best to protect us.”

December 04, 2008

Should NPR Run Funding Credits from the Department of Homeland Security?

NPR Ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard

Whenever NPR's Talk of the Nation dips into the topic of immigration, the national call-in show's telephone board lights up like a Christmas tree.

Immigration is an especially hot-button topic. So it's not surprising that when NPR began running a funding credit on Nov. 10 for the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program, my office heard from listeners and a few concerned public radio station managers.

They all questioned NPR's judgment in running the credit about the federal computer program that employers use voluntarily to check the legal status of new hires. At the least, some said, it is not a good fit for NPR. Some suggested NPR is endorsing E-Verify.

First, it's helpful to explain funding credits. Since NPR is a non-commercial network, it accepts money for what's called "underwriting." Local public radio stations do the same. The 10-second underwriting credits, which appear at various points in NPR programming, come from foundations, banks, auto companies, other businesses, and federal agencies.

Here's the text that is generating controversy: "'Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), offering E-Verify, confirming the legal working status of new hires. At DHS dot gov slash E-Verify."

E-Verify runs a free electronic database system for employers to scan 450 million Social Security and 60 million DHS records to confirm if new hires are eligible to work. Two states -- Arizona and Mississippi -- have made E-Verify mandatory for employers, as has the federal government for its new hires. Beginning Jan. 15, federal government contractors will be disqualified from competing for new contracts if they do not use E-Verify.

"In very basic terms, the goal of E-Verify is to assist employers in maintaining a legal workforce and to protect jobs for authorized U.S. workers," said Bill Wright, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. According to his agency's statistics, 96.1 percent of employees are confirmed as "work authorized" instantly or within 24 hours.

Some listeners say the program is far from benign. In fact, the program is the subject of lawsuits, court cases and Congressional investigation. "E-Verify is an extremely problematic program," writes Mary Hopkins."Big Brother aside, it 'verifies employment eligibility' against a filthy database, is ridden with delays and errors, and has caused a great deal of trouble for a lot of innocent people, including US citizens."

"The E-Verify system was being promoted to target illegal immigrants," wrote Richard Imm. "This program is error-filled, and is yet one more racist intrusion of the Bush administration into the business world and the private lives of all job-seekers. I recently became a Sustaining Member of my local NPR station (WNMU-FM) -- was this a mistake?"

Then this from general manager Matt Martin of public radio station KALW, in San Francisco: "Given the political uses to which DHS has been put and the fact that listeners want to be assured that NPR (and by extension, KALW) can be depended on for independent critical coverage of this and other government agencies, the credit may not belong in a news program."

DHS is in the midst of a two-month marketing campaign to promote E-Verify. "We are picking NPR because of its national reach," Wright said. "NPR has morning shows, reaches a lot of commuters out there. It's a trusted network and has a wide following and reaches a lot of demographics across the country." E-Verify funding credits also are carried on Latino USA, a show that NPR distributes but does not produce.

But there are problems with E-Verify, according to a May 2008 Government Accountability Office study, which found the service is vulnerable to employer fraud and misuse and noted that it can't ferret out stolen documents.

Another problem concerns the database's accuracy, said Tyler Moran, employment policy director for the National Immigration Law Center, a group that promotes legal rights for immigrants. "The error rate disproportionately affects foreign-born workers and that includes naturalized citizens and legal immigrants," she said. "It's often because of their names." Moran wrote a paper last month on how E-Verify has hurt legal workers.

So, should NPR run these funding credits? NPR has accepted underwriting from the government for 20 years, said John King, operations manager for sponsorship.

"In addition to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," he said, "we've accepted underwriting from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Postal Service, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities." None, though, has generated anywhere near as much controversy as the E-Verify credit.

NPR has strict guidelines about funding it will accept. Those guidelines indicate a funding credit must be 10 seconds and cannot contain price information, an explicit inducement to buy or a call to action. For example, a spot could not say, "Stop by our showroom to see a model." A credit can name a program or a store and tell listeners how to get more information. "Learn more about" is not considered a call to action but rather a way to provide listeners information, according to NPR's legal office.

E-Verify's Wright admits the service has some minor flaws. And certainly it has detractors in Congress and among groups advocating for immigrants. Even so, the E-Verify credit does not violate NPR's guidelines. Just because some listeners might not like the funder, or even the program it promotes, that is not a strong enough reason for NPR to reject an underwriter.

Accepting underwriting is not the same as approving the message, NPR managers said.

"The underwriting credit does not advocate a position about immigration," said Blake Truitt, senior vice president of National Public Media, NPR's sponsorship subsidiary. "The credit describes a DHS service."

But there is another potentially more serious concern. Will NPR do stories about E-Verify in hopes of keeping the funding coming? Or will DHS be able to influence NPR's coverage since it's helping keep NPR afloat?

The answer to such questions is no because of what's known in the news business as an impenetrable firewall between NPR news and the underwriting department. NPR reporters pay no attention to the funders, and the funders have no influence over what is covered, said managing editor Brian Duffy.

But the perception of a conflict can exist. Sean Collins, executive producer of Latino USA, is concerned about this since his show reports in-depth on immigration issues.

"There's a perception of a conflict when you hear reporting and then you hear a funding credit that's from a particular point of view and you realize the program was funded in part by that government organization or entity," said Collins. "It just makes you a little queasy. I don't think we do a good enough job of reiterating the concept of a firewall. It really does exist."

It's possible that NPR's immigration correspondent Jennifer Ludden will cover E-Verify, as she has in the past.

"Having this funding credit on air would have no bearing on how I handled future stories," said Ludden. "I certainly would have no idea if this particular credit would air in the same show or segment as one of my pieces. More to the point, I would have no problem continuing to report on the program's shortcomings, and the controversy over it."

But in any future reporting on E-Verify, Duffy says that NPR will need to also mention at the same time that E-Verify is a sponsor. "If Jennifer Ludden does a story on it for NPR, we should clearly disclose that E-Verify is something that NPR is receiving underwriting for," said Duffy. "We want to be as transparent as possible. We have no secrets."

Another concern -- one that involves all funding credits -- is that at many local public radio stations funding credits are read on-air by the same announcers who give the local news. This blurs what should be a clear distinction between news and underwriting.

In my view, local stations, and NPR, should take whatever steps necessary to make sure that listeners don't associate underwriting with legitimate news reporting.

NPR will continue running the E-Verify credit until Feb. 9.

December 02, 2008

Immigration Experts Predict Fewer Workplace Raids

by Jennifer Ludden

As the Obama administration takes shape, many experts are betting it will significantly curtail one of the most visible and controversial facets of the Bush administration's immigration crackdown: the high-profile workplace raids in which federal agents arrest dozens, even hundreds, of undocumented workers.

The number of people arrested in such raids has risen tenfold in the past five years, to 6,287 in 2008. Most have been administrative arrests. The biggest raids have made national news, but on any given week, there have been smaller ones across the country. They've targeted a San Francisco Bay Area chain of taquerias, Rhode Island courthouses and a Virginia painting company, to name a few.

As a candidate, Sen. Barack Obama questioned the effectiveness of such tactics in a 2007 interview with The Des Moines Register.

"I'm not particularly impressed with raids on plants that grab a handful of undocumented workers and send them home, leaving the company in a position where it can just hire the next batch," Obama said.

Calls For A Halt On Raids

Since the election, immigrant advocacy groups and Democratic members of Congress have intensified their calls for a moratorium on immigration raids, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has talked of finding a way to end them. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) says the undocumented workers being arrested and deported have millions of family members who are legal residents or U.S. citizens, and he says the effect has been devastating.

"You have single mothers now," Gutierrez says. "You have young, 15-year-old kids with no father. Think about that a moment. And the government took your dad away."

The Bush administration actually spent years pushing to legalize undocumented workers. But when a broad immigration overhaul failed in Congress two years in a row, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff dramatically ramped up worksite raids, along with other get-tough measures. In recent months, a number of studies have shown a big drop in illegal migration, and while Chertoff admits the tanking economy played a big role, he credits his agency's crackdown as well.

"This is a direct result of strong, positive enforcement, which is yielding measurable results," he says.

Doris Meissner, a former head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and now a senior fellow with the Migration Policy Institute, is not convinced.

"I think a lot of what's been going on has been high-visibility disruption for its own sake," she says. "I'm not sure there's a real strategy that's guiding it."

Shifting Focus To Employers?

Meissner does not believe President-elect Obama will end worksite raids altogether, but she does foresee a shift in focus to employers, and a far broader approach to holding them accountable. Meissner says basic labor law enforcement has languished for years. She expects an Obama administration to devote more resources to protecting wage and safety standards. She also says leveling the playing field in that manner would go a long way toward weeding out undocumented workers.

Obama also has spoken of the need for a reliable way to check workers' legal status. That has cheered even the staunchest supporters of the current government crackdown, such as Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

"Even though I expect the Obama administration is going to dial back on worksite raids," Krikorian says, "I don't think it's a complete disaster, because you're going to see employer-oriented enforcement continuing."

The Department of Homeland Security has aggressively encouraged businesses to consult a federal database to check workers' legal status. It's a program called E-Verify, which DHS promotes in a number of ways, including funding credits on NPR. Soon, DHS also will require large federal contractors to use the program. Mark Krikorian says that could mean up to 20 percent of all new hires in the country will be checked.

"That's a big deal," he says. "I mean, that's starting, at that point, to become a standard labor practice."

On the other hand, critics complain this program's error rate is too high, and some groups want to scrap it as well. That will be one more decision for the Obama administration as it shapes its own immigration policy.