Harvard to Comply With New Law; Employees Must Prove Citizenship

Although University officials say it would be nearly impossible for an illegal alien to have made onto the hallowed payrolls of Harvard, the federal government is not taking their word for it.

In accordance with the new immigration laws that Congress passed last year, all Harvard employees hired since 1986 must prove to the University they are legal U.S. residents. This undertaking will cost Harvard $10,000 since the University has created two new jobs to process the 3000 to 4000 forms, in what is rapidly becoming a bureaucratic nightmare.

The hassle and expense are particularly annoying, officials say, because they are probably unnecessary within Harvard's walls.

"We really think that it's a piece of legislation that's going to make our lives a lot harder, when they are hard enough already," says Director of Student Employment Martha H. Homer. "It is virtually impossible for an illegal alien to work here."

In fact, officials were so certain that there were no illegal aliens working at Harvard that they sought an exemption from the law. Lobbyists from the University and other schools argued this summer in Washington that educational institutions do not thrive on cheap labor so they are not likely to exploit illegal immigrants.

Although some congressmen may have agreed with that view, "they felt it was very important to be even-handed in" executing the controversial legislation and would not exempt universities, says Director of Dispursements William G. Hoyt.

As thousands of new Harvard employees start searching through dust-ridden file cabinets for birth certificates and passports to prove their citizenship, the form, known as the I-9, seems destined to become as renowned, and as unpopular, as the IRS' 1040.

Because nearly all students who work are hired on a temporary basis, the University over the summer sent out more than 8000 letters to students warning them that they will not be able to work on campus without the appropriate documents.

Homer and others in her office are now laying out concrete plans to deal with the bureaucratic nightmare that the law is rapidly becoming to the college.

Students will receive a copy of the I-9 form in the packet of information they receive when they register. After they fill it out, Harvard will affix a sticker on their identification cards, which will allow them to work on campus.

The law has also caused confusion in the University's payroll office, as administrators must scramble to devise a method to check the residential backgrounds of recently-hired faculty and staff. "The law has created a great deal of work for us," Hoyt says.

In addition to the 9000 student employees on Harvard's payroll, I-9 forms will also be needed for the approximately three or four thousand regular employees who have been hired since last November.

Although Hoyt says processing the forms is something his office is prepared to, and can, handle, he adds that creating the jobs to process them will cost the University about $10,000.

The law, which goes into effect on September 26, will pose especially acute logistical problems for temporary employers such as Harvard Student Agencies (HSA), officials say.

HSA employee Mark V. Joseph '90 said that filling out the forms will "slow up the process" of getting students to work. Since HSA will have to check every applicant's records, students will have to wait two or three days before they can start working.

Much of the student-run corporation's business comes from walk-in workers who start immediately. The new law will delay these employees and hinder this side of the business.

"People don't realize what a huge task it is to implement this law," Joseph says of the law which will affect HSA's about 1500 employees, most of whom are temporary.

But HSA officials say they do not think the law will negatively affect their business. "Because two-thirds of our students are on financial aid, most of the students will wait while we process their forms," says Gina L. Beradi '90.