What’s at stake in the I-9-or-bust rules

Let me start with the positive news. We finally have an organization charged with examining how America’s policies toward migrants contribute to political unrest. Congress has appointed a new committee to do just that, and some progress has been made. Unfortunately, I’m pessimistic about how this long-overdue investigation will be carried out, given congressional Republicans’ insistence on never contradicting President Trump.

I encourage people to attend the hearings in person, assuming they can get a free pass from the administration’s draconian policies. Attending Congress’ hearings without accompanying proof that you’re making your presence known is the equivalent of flying to Europe and fleeing to the Alps without bothering to wear any clothing. The government has a just way of enforcing its borders through drone surveillance and border patrols; the public has a fundamental right to present the evidence against it.

All that said, I’m glad the Department of Homeland Security is focusing its efforts on stopping two forms of evidence that violate immigration law: Electronic equipment and documentation.

That the government is focusing on confirming that people are who they say they are might be a sign that it’s aware that it’s about to face an embarrassing face-off. If every travel ban turns out to be the result of arbitrary or lawless decisions, then what good does government be?

But making sure that people aren’t using technology or documents that legalize imposters or frauds is an important part of doing business with the government, too. The question is: How far does the government go to ensure that nobody is using the computers and portable electronics that its policies regulate?

That’s one reason the new rules require that people who are applying for travel documents carry so-called I-9 forms, which document the presence of a “credible fear” of returning to their home country, rather than I-20 forms, which describe the present status of an individual. How much these kinds of forms are used may help people better understand how legally powerless they are at the border.

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