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Two E-Verify bills to be voted on in the Michigan House

A pair of bills which would require public employers and contractors and subcontractors of public employers to register with and use the E-Verify system to ferret out undocumented workers are on their way to action on the House floor.

The bills, HB [4024](http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(y0mrml55rv1xwyymyldw0hrz))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectName=2011-HB-4024) and HB [4026](http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(mzc54x45w1wuxpebs5ilwy55))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectName=2011-HB-4026), were approved by the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

While the bills’ sponsor, Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville), says the bills will stop undocumented workers from getting paid with taxpayer dollars, opponents of the measures say the bills will have an undue burden on businesses because of the costs associated with running the program, and could eliminate or gum up the hiring of employees because of consistent reporting errors in the system.

Ryan Bates, executive director for the Alliance of Immigrant Rights and Reform of Michigan, says the bills are nothing more than a political stunt.

In a Facebook posting on June 16, Agema went to great lengths to assuage those involved in the agricultural industry, which is a huge employer in his suburban/rural Kent county district, that the industry would be exempt from the legislation if it becomes law.

“It shows that this is a political stunt — that even the bills’ sponsor doesn’t believe that E-Verify is a worthwhile exercise for the whole economy, otherwise they wouldn’t be proposing such a narrow, limited bill,” Bates said. “But they do believe in scoring cheap political points on the backs of working immigrant families.”

Bates also contends that in pushing the Commerce Committee to support his legislation, Agema was deliberately misleading in his testimony.

“The most powerful thing here is that Agema lied repeatedly during the committee hearing,” said Ryan Bates. “One of the things Agema said is that no U.S. citizen or legal worker has lost their job as a result of e-verify.”

Bates sent Messenger a fact sheet from the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles which outlined a series of issues discovered with E-Verify programs across the country. The document, dated February 2011, cites numerous examples of citizens being caught up in errors in the system, leading to them losing jobs.

Here are just two examples from the fact sheet:

A U.S. citizen and former captain in the U.S. Navy with 34 years of service and a history of having maintained high security clearance was flagged by E-Verify as not eligible for employment. It took him and his wife, an attorney, two months to resolve the discrepancy.

A U.S. citizen was hired for a job at a poultry company in Georgia but received a TNC [tentative non-confirmation] notice. The employee wanted to contest the TNC, but the company did not grant her time off to do so. As a result, the employee had no time to contest the TNC and was fired.

Another fact sheet from the NILC identified studies and reports from employers who found 12 percent or higher error rates in E-Verify information. Worse, a 2009 Department of Homeland Security study found that 42 percent of persons rejected by the system were never told of that, preventing them from challenging the errors in the E-Verify system.

Bates also criticized Agema for relying on the work of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The group that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having extremist and racist views on immigration. The group was founded by well-known northern Michigan racist John Tanton. Tanton, the SPLC reports, told an interviewer in 1997, “unless U.S. borders are sealed, America will be overrun by people ‘defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.’”

In that same June 16 post on Facebook, Agema cites FAIR as claiming “we [Michigan] spent $929 million on illegals.”

“We’re deeply disappointed that FAIR continues to be used as a source during debates on important legislation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified FAIR as a hate group that works to support a bigoted, anti-immigrant agenda,” said Bates. “It is completely disingenuous to quote their fabricated statistics into the House record.”

The bills could come for a vote on the House floor as soon as next week, but Agema plead with Facebook viewers on June 21 to call lawmakers.

“Please notify your State Reps. to support this ASAP -a vote will be taken perhaps tomorrow. Legal Michigan residence need these jobs. Speak up now or this will not get passed.”

Bates is not alone in opposing the use of E-Verify systems. Immigration Equality, a national LGBT immigration rights organization, is also opposed.

“As Congressional leaders, such as Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, have pointed out, E-Verify destroys jobs and has been shown to work barely half the time,” said Steve Ralls, communications director for the group. “It is costly, it impacts job growth and it doesn’t work. Instead, Congress should reform our outdated immigration laws to recognize the incredible contribution immigrant workers make to our economy, and to recognize their families and loved ones under the law, too.”

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