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Vote Expected on Controversial Worker Verification Plan

June 10, 2008

Brentwood, NY - Only weeks after a court threw out one plan for verifying the legal status of workers, Suffolk County lawmakers are set to vote on a new one. The resolution would require about 1,000 contractors who do business with the county to verify the legal citizenship records of all newly-hired employees through the federal "E-Verify" system.

New York immigration lawyer Patrick Young, calls it a bad plan, because the E-Verify database has a bad track record. Young, who also serves as program director for the Central American Refugee Center in Brentwood, says one out of every 11 people run through the system will be falsely branded as ineligible to work.

"It's going to place a burden on employers. We feel it's going to lead to discrimination, because the majority of people who are identified falsely as being unauthorized to work are Latinos."

Proponents say the idea is an 18-month pilot program, and that it has been successful in other cities. Young counters that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce already researched the E-Verify system, and found Latinos are 30 times more likely to get a "false positive" than white workers.

"People statewide should care about this, because about one in four New Yorkers is foreign-born. This is really an attempt to say that the welcome mat isn't out for the foreign-born, that the foreign-born should live elsewhere."

Suffolk lawmakers also are expected to decide whether they will fight the court ruling, which invalidated another more sweeping verification measure. It would apply, not just to contractors that do business with Suffolk, but also to all licensed contractors in the county.

Michael Clifford/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY