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Migrant Advocates Say Employment Verification Hurting Economic Recovery

July 14, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - Each year, more than 16,000 migrant and seasonal workers plant, cultivate, and harvest Virginia's labor-intensive crops, such as fruits, vegetables and tobacco, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

At present, however, the U.S. Senate is moving to expand the federal system for determining employment eligibility so that current workers will be checked along with new hires.

Jennifer Allen of the Border Action Network says the changes to the "E-verify" system will harm qualified U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike by falsely denying them work.

"The system has been found to be full of error. You can get all sorts of false negative responses from it. The database is just simply not ready."

Allen says subjecting already-employed workers to an E-verify check will mean many will lose their jobs.

"There's a large percentage of people in this country that do not have sufficient documentation, that don't have government-issued ID, and it's not because they're not legal workers."

Allen estimates there are 21 million U.S. citizens who don't possess government photo ID, as required by E-verify.

She says E-verify doesn't address the real immigration problem, which she says is the lack of a system to match up millions of willing undocumented workers in this country with the thousands of businesses who want to hire them.

"The problem is not that the system doesn't work for verification. The problem is that workers and employers don't have policies and practices in place so people can be hired legally and legitimately."

Supporters of E-verify say errors are easily corrected with a visit to a Social Security office. But Allen says the additional red tape and work force disruptions will harm business, especially small businesses, and slow the economic recovery.

There's more information at and at the Virginia Employment Commission - Migrant and Seasonal Workers:

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA