Monday, November 28, 2011

Nursing homes and architects are not our enemy

On November 15, House Bill 439 became the first piece of Rep. Daryl Metcalfe's anti-immigrant package to sludge its way through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  Standing up to outlandish rhetoric about the so-called "illegal alien invasion", 74 Republicans and Democrats stood up for civil rights and responsible government by voting "No."

It's hard to keep track of the variety of ways the Metcalfe package targets immigrants and civil rights.  But this particular bill also aims at people and institutions with professional licenses from the state.  HB 439 provides that the state's licensing boards and commissions have to revoke the license of anyone who knowingly employs (or permits the employment of)* an unauthorized alien in connection with the activity the person has a license for.

What does this mean exactly?  Who knows.  Even the lawmakers couldn't say exactly what this bill could lead to at the House Government Committee meeting on October 4th when they voted it out of committee.  Could a hospital lose its license if its cleaning staff hired a person who turned out to be undocumented?  Representative Mustio said no (Rep. Josephs disagreed), but a nursing home could. And should.  Take that, nursing homes!

Even if you think it's appropriate to punish people who hire undocumented immigrants, this is bizarre way to do it.  For one thing, it will be expensive to expand the boards to give them the capacity to do all the monitoring they will have to do.  For another, instead of double checking federal immigration authorities, shouldn't professional licensing boards be spending their energy on making sure licensees meet their professions' standards?

Personally, I'd rather the people who give out licenses to architects concentrate on making sure that architects know how to keep buildings from falling down.  That seems like a pretty complicated job on its own.

HB 439 now goes to the Senate.  How it does there will depend, in part, on how many constituents call their senators to tell them, "Nursing homes and architects are not our enemy.  Vote No on HB 439".
*P.S. Does this part mean that you could lose your license if you find out that a colleague is undocumented?  So not only can you not hire undocumented employees, you have rat out peers you think might be undocumented?

Nate in Philly

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