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Union Sees E-Verify Bill as a Job Killer

July 5, 2011

HARRISBURG, Penn. - A new federal bill being touted as a way to crack down on illegal immigration is being criticized by a union that says it could cripple the economy and undermine workers' rights, instead.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ represents more than 120,000 property service workers in eight states. Pennsylvania State SEIU Director Gabe Morgan says the controversial "E-Verify" system would be mandatory if Texas Rep. Lamar Smith's proposal passes.

However, Morgan says, more than half the time it is used today, E-Verify fails to detect undocumented workers - and in the process, it jeopardizes legal immigrants.

"The danger is they'll be wrongfully flagged. The damage that creates is really to employers, because instead of hiring people and putting them to work, they have to spend more and more of their time trying to comply with government rules that don't really help anybody."

Morgan says the reality is that places with larger populations of immigrant workers tend to do better economically than areas where there aren't as many.

"The whole, sort of, logic of their argument is that having a system that deters immigrant workers from working would somehow help American workers. It's fine to say that, politically, but there's no economic basis for that."

If E-Verify becomes law, Morgan charges, small businesses will bear the brunt of the cost and consequences.

"All this bill is, is a job-killing, anti-small-business bill that tries to transfer the burden of solving the immigration problem from the government to businesses that are already struggling in this economy."

Supporters of E-Verify say it's a way to keep jobs in the hands of American workers at a time when unemployment is soaring. Morgan warns that it could increase the underground economy, with more workers paid under the table and kept off the books. Others doubt the federal government would be able to enforce mandatory E-Verify use, if the bill passes.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA