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Government, Politics & Issues

Bill Targets Missouri Companies That Hire Undocumented Workers

Mark Parkinson, r St. Charles 2014
Official state photo

Legislation introduced earlier this week would require businesses to certify their employees' resident status using the federal electronic verification system. Supporters of the bill hope it will discourage illegal immigration.

Introduced by state Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, the bill punishes businesses that consciously hire illegal immigrants. There are also penalties for failure to use the federal employment eligibility verification program. That system, E-Verify is an online tool business owners can use to determine if their employees are able to legally work in the Unites States.

Penalties include fines and temporary closure. State agencies and contractors who work with the government are already required to use E-Verify in Missouri.

Nick Haynes, legislative assistant for Parkinson, says because the federal government is not dealing with immigration, Parkinson wanted to introduce a measure that would help discourage illegal immigration.

“No one blames illegal immigrants for the fact that they want to come here,” Haynes said. “The problem is that we have employers who are willing to break the law in order to cut a few corners and save some money. This bill addresses that.”

In a press release Parkinson said, “We will only be able to solve our immigration problems when we make the legal option more attractive and accessible. That’s something only the federal government can do. But there are options available for state governments, and that is why I am introducing this bill today. It is a fair bill that does not punish the immigrant coming here in chase of a dream.  It punishes the businesses that profit from rampant abuses of the law.

Sarah Rossi, director of policy and advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri says immigration regulation is the federal government’s responsibility.

“And it should stay the federal government’s responsibility. And you know we understand and I think most people understand that there’s some frustration with the slow process of reforming immigration law in the United States, but it is a process and it’s one that needs to be adhered to. People need to patient.”

Rossi also notes that the bill is repetitive and could lead to discrimination against individuals with Hispanic names.

Vanessa Crawford Aragón, executive director of Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates, says the E-Verification system is not always accurate.

“E-verify can truly prohibit work-authorized people from working; and it’s difficult to correct that misidentified status,” she said.

Aragon says sometimes E-verify does not reflect the most recent information about an individual’s work authorization. Also individuals with multiple last names, and women who get married or divorced are sometimes incorrectly labeled by the system.

Aragon argues that there are not benefits to mandating verification.

“When you try to institute punitive anti-immigration measures at a local level, it’s bad for communities,” she says. “It’s bad for workers and employers. It’s bad for the economy and it just doesn't make sense.”

There have been several attempts to pass similar legislation in the past. This try comes on the heels of Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy, which would give millions of undocumented immigrants temporary deportation relief.

Missouri is home to more than 60,000 undocumented immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Of those, less than half qualify for deportation relief under Obama’s plan.

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