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Undocumented Worker Bill Dead on Arrival

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June 27, 2008

New York — Legislation that would have required 17,000 licensed Suffolk contractors to use the federal E-Verify immigration database to check the status of new workers has been withdrawn by its sponsor. Suffolk County Democrat Jon Cooper says there are too many problems with the plan. Cooper, who represents Lloyd Harbor, says the more he looked at E-Verify across the nation, the more problems he discovered with his proposed bill.

"There is a very large problem in the database with discrepancies. Also, it has been used by employers as a pretext to fire workers when they attempt to organize a union or file a wage claim."

The decision to withdraw this particular measure is welcome news to Luis Valenzuela of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance. Still, Valenzuela cautions, this is just one victory against a tide of anti-immigrant bills in Suffolk County.

"The high cost of housing and impacts on property taxes, education, corrections, health care--you name it, immigrants are blamed for it. Legislation that targets immigrants seems to be the one-size-fits-all solution to any problem that comes up."

In addition to withdrawing his own bill, Cooper also urged the county executive not to revive a more sweeping measure that would affect all current workers who do business with the county. He says communities across New York should think long and hard before they enact local immigration laws. He admits the border needs to be secured, but he now says that's a job for the federal government.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.

Michael Clifford/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NY