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Is E-Verify Back on the Table in RI?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The controversial E-Verify program that was repealed by Governor Chafee last year will be the subject of a House Committee on Labor hearing tonight at the State House.

Legislation introduced Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) would require the Department of Administration to order the executive department to use the program to verify the employment eligibility of new hires in state departments and companies doing business with those departments.

Also scheduled for a hearing is another Rep. Palumbo-sponsored bill that would establish an E-Verify compliance chapter, requiring all non-governmental employers within the state with three or more employees to apply to participate in the E-Verify program.

Chafee Repealed E-Verify

In 2008, then-Governor Don Carcieri issued an executive order to enforce E-Verify, but Chafee immediately ended the program upon taking office. At the time, Chafee said the program “has ostracized our Latinos communities”

“I maintained throughout my campaign that my very first act as governor would be to repeal the Executive Order on E-verify, and today I reaffirm that commitment,” Chafee said. “This was a fundamental promise of my campaign, and one I stand by. E-verify has not only proven to be divisive to our state, it simply doesn’t work. It has ostracized our Latino communities, and has proved ineffective.”

But Terry Gorman, the president of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, believes the program is the “simplest most immediate solution to our state's budget woes.” He said implementing E-Verify would provide an instant deterrent to illegal immigrants coming to Rhode Island work.

“Illegal Aliens currently in the workforce would begin to leave for fear of detection,” Gorman said. “Those fears are currently non-existent. That would open jobs for the thousands of unemployed Rhode Islanders and just as important to our returning Veterans and Legal Immigrants.”

Gorman claims illegal immigrants have created “bilingual burdens” that are now bankrupting urban school districts in the state. He pointed to the financial woes in Providence, Central Falls and Woonsocket as examples. He said he supports the program because it will save the state millions of dollars.

“It may even deter a portion of the unlimited number of pregnant illegal alien women who might arrive and be welcomed on the doorsteps of our hospitals who would then require the support of our social services,” Gorman said. “These deterrents are created even with just the possibility of this type of legislation.”

Reform Should Happen at Federal Level

Still, Palumbo’s bills may be a hard sell for his colleagues this year. Even if they were passed by the General Assembly, Chafee would likely veto the legislation.

“We are one of only a handful of states using this system, and it has done more harm than good,” Chafee said before repealing the program last year. “I pledged in my campaign to unite our state and bring Rhode Islanders together, and that’s what I’ll do as governor. Repealing E-verify is an important first step.”

Ocean State Action executive director Kate Brock praised Chafee. She said immigration reform should be handled on the federal level.

“Governor Chafee made the right move last year when he ended this discriminatory practice,” Brock said. “E-Verify fosters a culture of hostility towards immigrant communities and remains fraught with errors. We should be pursuing common sense immigration reform at the federal level, rather than enacting discriminatory state level policies that rob our residents of their ability to earn a decent and honest living.”



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