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Another Fight for E-Verify on the Horizon

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Photo: longislandwins/flikr. The debate over the controversial E-Verify program might soon make its way back to the Rhode Island General Assembly.

The debate over E-Verify in Rhode Island simply will not go away.

Two years after Governor Lincoln Chafee shut down Rhode Island’s participation in the federal program that lets businesses check that their employees are indeed legally allowed to work in the United States, and after multiple failed attempts to reverse that decision in the General Assembly, five State Representatives are once again moving forward with a plan to mandate compliance.

Representative Peter Palumbo, a democrat from Cranston, introduced legislation this week that would establish an E-Verify compliance chapter in state law and require employers in the state to participate in the controversial program meant to deter undocumented immigrants from finding work.

“U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the country,” Palumbo said. “Ensuring that Rhode Island employers employ persons eligible to work in the state is an issue of statewide concern.”

A Competitive Disadvantage?

Palumbo said that companies that violate federal employment laws by hiring employees who are not eligible to work in the U.S. put companies that follow the rules at a disadvantage.

In addition, he said, refusing to enforce federal law encourages more illegal immigrants to come to the country.

“I believe we need to preserve the dream of America as a land with open arms for all legal immigrants who wish to come here for a better life for themselves and their families,” Palumbo said. “But the only way to do that is to stem the tide of illegal immigration and target those who are abetting that illegal action.”

Palumbo’s bill would require all companies with 200 or more employees to apply to participate in E-Verify by the first day of next year. Companies with between 50-200 employees would have to comply by July 1, 2014 and companies with less than 50 employees would have to be on board by the first day of 2015.

The burden of enforcement would fall to the Department of Labor of Training which, under the law, would provide a list of employers who fail to comply to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

If passed, the bill would also force employers to immediately terminate the employment of anyone found to be working in the country illegally.

An Issue of Fairness?

“E-Verify is about jobs, but jobs are not the only issue here,” Palumbo said. “Illegal immigration is a significant factor in three major budget issues faced by our state and others – education, health care and criminal justice. This is an issue of fairness, making sure that the many hard-working, taxpaying legal workers in our state are not footing the bill for those who are here working illegally.”

“There is simply no effective way to protect our citizens and stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our state without enforcing the laws that already exist and stopping those who harbor or hire illegal workers,” he said. “E-Verify is an easy and effective means to do that.”

Stiff Resistance

Palumbo’s legislation faces stiff opposition from opponents who feel the system either unfairly punishes illegal immigrants or places too many restrictions on businesses in the state.

One such opponent is Representative Grace Diaz, a democrat from Providence who has pitched a bit of a compromise on the matter for the past three years.

“What my legislation does is grant the possibility of using E-Verify voluntarily so if a company or whatever wants to do that, we have it,” Diaz said recently. “But it does not make it mandatory so if you have a company and you feel like you want to do it, go ahead, do it. But when you impose that [and make it mandatory], it creates a burden over some companies or organizations or businesses.”

Will It Reach The Floor?

At least one of the co-sponsors of Palumbo’s bill questions if the topic will even be addressed at the General Assembly level.

“To say this kindly, the only resistance we’ve had using an E-Verify system is Speaker Fox and Governor Chafee,” Rep. Doreen Costa said recently. “It’s always up to Speaker Fox what bills come to the House floor, he chooses not to let that bill out even though there’s much, much testimony in favor of it in the committee hearings.”

Costa says she supports the program because it would remove the possibility of “paying people under the table” and might help the state’s unemployment rate if positions went to employees who are legally able to take potentially available jobs.

Palumbo’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on Labor.


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This sounds good to me! I wonder what burden the businesses would be under, according to Rep. Diaz? I dont call a phone call ,that takes 2 min to verify someone ,a burden to businesses !

Comment #1 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 05

Also , shouldn't all bills go out to the floor for a vote? This is a democracy , not a dictatorship!

Comment #2 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 05

Legitimate employers already make sure their employers are legitimate. The restaurant and tourism industries are too valuable around here for there to be any shake ups. Even if this was to become law, it would be enforced just like our existing immigrationn laws... practically never.

Comment #3 by David Beagle on 2013 02 05

@David, how do they make sure their employees are legitimate? Dont tell me ids? plenty phony ones around

Comment #4 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 05

Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification


File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
Form I-9, Employment. Eligibility Verification. Anti-Discrimination Notice. It is illegal to discriminate against any individual (other than an alien not authorized to ...

Comment #5 by David Beagle on 2013 02 05

This legislation is way too common sense to actually be placed on the House floor for a vote. All of the arguments against Everify have no basis in fact and are emotional in nature. Of course, whenever proponents of the bill point that out, they quickly pivot to the "racial overtones" posture. Very predictable. Once again, Governor Gump chooses to ignore Federal law to satisfy his personal political whim. When's the next gubernatorial election?

Comment #6 by Harold Stassen on 2013 02 05

chaffee like obama and the liberal mantra.....the end justifies the emans
no respect for the process.

Comment #7 by jon paycheck on 2013 02 05

Did you read this statement in this article?
"Fox chooses not to let that bill out even though there’s much, much testimony in favor of it in the committee hearings.”
This is the crux of all problems in the General ASSembly. Fox is the dicatator and calls the shots...It should be a house floor vote..a democracy vote...What good is voting for a rep who can't vote on anything? They need to change the rules on how much power the Speaker of the House actually has...
I bet if you lessened his power and increase it to floor power where they all vote, we would have a much improved system.

Comment #8 by Karmenn Sense on 2013 02 05

Come on RI, we need to show businesses that we are for building a productive infrastructure, that we know how to be friendly to businesses and want them to think we actually are interested in making it better for them by having legal employees.
What is the mystery here?

Comment #9 by Gary Arnold on 2013 02 05

This is a no brainer. Of course E Verify should be in place.
The problem lies, that there is no enforcement as to whether or not illegal workers are being employed.

I have two children, each worked at a "higher scale" restaurant, one in NP and one in Smithfield in the past two years. Both were asked to work under the table, as were all the workers in each of the restaurants. I had both of my children immediately quit their jobs, and both restaurants are out of business now.

Bottom line, this stuff goes on every day, all over the place, and NOBODY MONITORS this!!!!!!!!!

Business as usual in RI.

Comment #10 by pearl fanch on 2013 02 05

david, then they use fraudulent identification and the i9 just stays with the employer !!!

Comment #11 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 05

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