Tony Dolz made his accusation during a school board meeting. Board President Julia Brownley, his opponent in the election, says
the district already has
a policy to ensure its employees are allowed to work in this country.
By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor
At the final summer Board of Education meeting last week, 41st Assembly District Republican candidate Tony Dolz charged that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is likely employing illegal immigrants and asked that the district use a federal program to find who those workers are.
The candidate, and a few of his supporters, gave a warning during the public comment portion at the beginning of the meeting Thursday that they would be discussing the illegal immigration issue.
SMMUSD Board President Julia Brownley, who is facing Dolz in the November election as the Democratic candidate, said in an interview this week that Dolz chose to make his statements at the meeting rather than in front of another government entity because she was there.
“According to the federal government statistics, one in 20 workers is an illegal alien,” Dolz told the board. “And that number is higher in California. Statistically speaking, you have a probability of at least 50 illegal alien workers per thousand in this district.”
Dolz and his supporters said the school district should use the federal program, Basic Pilot, to determine whether there are illegal immigrants working for the district. Basic Pilot, which was started in 1997 and recently received a boost in funding, is an Internet service that allows an employer to fill in information about a worker. If that worker is in the database as a citizen of the United States, the program will inform the employer. If the person is not, Homeland Security Department workers will do further research to determine the citizenship status of the employee. There is no mechanism in the program that forces employers to fire the workers if they are determined to be illegal immigrants.
Brownley, who could not by state law respond to comments made by Dolz during the meeting because the issue was not on the agenda, remained mostly silent. Board member Oscar de la Torre asked Dolz if he was also opposed to outsourcing, which he said was as harmful to the American worker as Dolz said illegal immigration was. Dolz said local governments did not have control over that, while they did have control over illegal immigration. Board Vice President Kathy Wisnicki said she knew there was great scrutiny of identity checking for new employees, citing the finger printing and citizenship proof she had to go through following her election to the school board.
Brownley made a similar statement in an interview on Tuesday.
“The allegations he [Dolz] was making are incorrect,” Brownley said. “He really should have done his homework. We [the SMMUSD] have a very sophisticated hiring process.”
Brownley said she was not familiar enough with Basic Pilot to comment on whether the school district should use the program. She further accused Dolz of bringing the issue before the board because she is on it. Speaking in an interview on Tuesday, Dolz denied that was the case. He said he planned to make similar presentations to other local governments within the 41st Assembly District, and the SMMUSD board coincidentally happened to be his first stop.
Dolz added that the SMMUSD’s hiring process was not sophisticated enough, because it does not call for as much identity proof as Basic Pilot does.
Dolz is a founding member of the Minuteman Project, an anti-illegal immigration group based in Orange County that sends members to patrol the U.S. Southern border. He is also a legal immigrant, having arriving in this country as a child with his parents from Cuba in the 1960s. Since shortly after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, all Cubans have been allowed to legally enter the United States and become citizens without going through the immigration process of those arriving from all other nations.
Dolz said on Tuesday that he does not support forcibly removing illegal immigrants from the United States, but he would like them to voluntarily leave once incentives for them to stay have been eliminated.
“If they cannot get a job, rent a home, get a drivers’ license; if they cannot get anything but service at a hospital here, they will gradually go back to whatever country they came from,” Dolz said.
When asked how she felt about the illegal immigration issue, Brownley said, “It’s a very complex issue and one of which I’m still trying to study and trying to figure out, as well is our leadership in Congress. I do think we should have for the undocumented people who live here, a pathway for them to become legal residents or perhaps citizens. But we also need to protect our borders in a way that is a smart way.”
Brownley added that she wanted to be respectful of the people who had gone through the proper legal channels to come to this country.