Supervisor Order Review of E-Verify for County Contracts

By EGP News Service

The Board of Supervisors directed staffers Tuesday to investigate the feasibility of requiring county contractors to use a federal database system to check employees’ immigration status.

The federal government will require its contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify, a free Internet-based tool, beginning Sept. 8. The system is operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

Contractor that could be required to use the E-Verify system should the County make such a policy mandatory, would include day care centers, food service providers, construction companies and health clinics to name a few.

“Determining an employee’s eligibility to legally work in the United States is vital in our effort to reduce the economic impact of illegal immigration on our county taxpayers and protect workers from unscrupulous employers who exploit them,” said Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who regularly releases statements estimating the cost of County services to undocumented immigrants and their children.

Federal regulations include exceptions for contracts less than $100,000 and subcontracts less than $3,000.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of Antonovich’s motion to have the county’s chief executive officer and the Internal Services Department review the E-Verify system and report back to the board in two weeks.

Supervisor Gloria Molina voted in favor of the motion but cautioned that the system is not without flaws. Molina also questioned whether the cash-strapped County should be involved in enforcing compliance.

The system, intended to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants, is the subject of a legal challenge in federal court by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups that claim the database is error-ridden. Immigrant advocacy groups have also objected, saying errors could result in legal workers being wrongly fired.

Homeland security officials, in turn, have said that improvements to E- Verify have reduced the error rate to less than 1 percent in millions of checks.

Additional improvements are being implemented and considered, including adding biometric identifiers, such as photographs and fingerprints.

Recently, a number of businesses, including Overhill Farms in the city of Vernon have come under fire by immigrant rights groups and unions for the firing of workers after E-Verify detected “discrepancies with their Social Security numbers.” In some cases, the dismissed employees had worked for the companies for more than 20 years. Activist claim that the businesses are unfairly using the system to get rid of higher paid workers with seniority, as well as union members and sympathizers.

“The County Board of Supervisors’ motion prescribes a poisonous pill that will sicken our local economy by denying employment to qualified workers and lending itself to racial profiling of immigrant workers,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), in response to the Board’s vote.

“In these difficult economic times, neither businesses nor workers should be placed in disadvantage because of the use of a flawed system,” states Salas.

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August 27, 2009  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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