New Platforms for Policy Fights

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The Society for Human Resource Management is displeased with a public blog post by Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Stewart Baker lambasting the organization’s legislative push to replace the E-verify system, an online program that allows employers to check the legal immigration status of potential employees. At issue is the July 11th post to the Department of Homeland Security’s public blog in which Assistant Secretary Baker takes a sarcastic tone and argues that SHRM wants to kill E-verify so that corporate employers can safely hire illegal immigrants.

SHRM is unhappy not simply with the tone, but also because this was the first contact they received from the Department of Homeland Security after repeated attempts to discuss the issue. SHRM and the bill’s congressional supporters can decide whether Baker’s post was uncouth or his positions are unacceptable or incorrect. Looking from outside of this debate, there are clear positives to the use of a public forum, like a blog, for these kinds of differences of opinions. SHRM now knows the position of those in power at DHS and the level of committment to that position, as evidenced by the tone of the blog post.

Perhaps, SHRM is also somewhat shocked at the use of a new media platform – and a transparent one at that – as a way for the government to express policy views and make known personal and policy differences. The public nature of this response is likely a positive for the group’s efforts in that they can readily point to the attitude that they are fighting against. They can also likely parlay the publicity into an actual meeting, at which they will already know the positions of those they will be in discussions with. (Baker has already stated that he is willing to meet now.)

Accusations of bad faith and improper tone aside, this is a welcome development for the government’s use of transparent new media. The public greatly benefits from the open flow of information coming from the government in its discussions with outside actors, such as SHRM, and inside actors, such as Congress. It liberates policy disputes from behind the closed doors where they occur and let all know where all actors stand.

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