Pins in a map mark the origins of immigrants
© AFP/Getty Images/File John Moore
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republican lawmakers proposed Wednesday to require all US businesses to verify workers' legal status through a database, saying it would curb illicit immigration and bring jobs to lawful residents.
The bill was criticized by Hispanic and Asian American advocates, who said that the database was costly and error-prone, thus aggravating discrimination against legal workers whose names may sound similar to those of illegal aliens.
Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican of Texas, led legislation that would scrap existing paperwork for job applicants and instead require that employers check their status through the E-Verify database.
"With unemployment at nine percent, jobs are scarce. Despite record unemployment, seven million people work in the US illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers," said Smith, who heads the House Judiciary Committee.
Under the bill, anyone who knowingly submits incorrect information into the database would be subject to up to 15 years in prison.
E-Verify was set up in 1996 as a voluntary way for businesses to check workers' immigration status.
Unlike many countries, the United States does not issue identification documents to its citizens.
The Republican Party holds a majority in the House of Representatives, but President Barack Obama's Democratic Party controls the Senate.
Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat from California who heads the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said that E-Verify's rate of error was 30 times higher for naturalized citizens.
"E-Verify hurts American workers, legal immigrants, small businesses and our economic recovery efforts while doing nothing to fix our broken immigration system," said Chu, who said Asian Americans would be particularly affected.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, in a 2007 analysis of similar legislation, said that mandatory verification would decrease federal revenue by $17.3 billion over 10 years as undocumented workers go further underground and out of the tax system.
Smith said that his proposal, backed by fellow Republicans in the House and Senate, offered flexibility to businesses by phasing in the requirement over three years.
© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license