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The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill making E-Verify mandatory for Iowa employers. E-Verify is a program set up and maintained by the federal Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the social security system.

Bill manager Sen. Julian Garrett said the system allows employers to check electronically with the E-Verify system to ensure those being hired are eligible to work.

The program has been in existence “for a while,” he said. And 5,000 employers in Iowa already voluntarily use it.

“I have personally talked to quite a few people that use this program here in Iowa,” he said. “Without exception, they have said it’s very easy to use. They already are collecting much of the information they need.”

The bill simply adds one other step in the hiring process, Garrett said, which is utilizing the E-Verify system.

Garrett said it is an issue of fairness. Law-abiding employers shouldn’t have to compete with others who hire employees willing to work for a substandard wage and cut their cost of doing business. It also is unfair for Americans and those legally able to work here, forcing them to compete with others willing to work for those substandard wages.

Democrat Senators Tony Bisignano and Herm Quirmbach spoke against the bill.

Bisignano noted the opposition of organizations like Casey’s, the Iowa Chamber Alliance, ABI and others in subcommittee.

“If you had any opportunity to watch this subcommittee or listen to it, it basically said that this bill is probably the worst thing that you could possibly pass,” he said. “The Restaurant Association said this is horrible for them. It’s slow, it’s inaccurate and will cause more work stoppages and work shortages and closures. I don’t know who you surveyed Senator.”

Bisignano said even discussing the bill is “beyond the pale” at a time when hours are being cut in restaurants and bars.

“Why are we talking about something that could be destructive to our economy,” Bisignano said.

Alluding to a figure thrown out by Dustin Miller of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, Bisignano claimed 50 percent of E-Verify’s decisions are inaccurate. Garrett, however, maintains more than 98 percent of individuals who are run through the system are approved.

“Something (has) to give,” Bisignano said. “I’m going to side with the ABI, the Chamber Alliance and Casey’s and the restaurant association.”

Quirmbach said everyone agrees the immigration system is a mess. But, he added, the federal government is responsible for figuring it out.

“The E-Verify System, from all I’ve heard, is as unreliable as everything else having to do with the immigration system,” he said. “When the whole of the business community speaks out against it as Sen. Bisignano just reported, I think that we need to listen to them.”

In his closing comments, Garrett said we know the federal government will not enforce the law. Federal law prohibits employing someone here illegally by a fine of not more than $3,000 per unauthorized employee and/or prison for six months.

“But we all know the current administration isn’t enforcing the law,” he said. “The law is there. The law is very clear. The folks that are objecting to us taking any steps to help address this problem, they know it won’t be enforced at the federal level and if they can keep us from doing anything at the state level they can just go ahead and do whatever they want to do.”

He repeated that E-Verify states 98.34 percent of the time a person is cleared through its system for work. And this doesn’t include the fact many people here illegally do not apply for work if they know a business uses E-Verify.

“That takes away from the argument on this is such a cumbersome, difficult system,” Garrett said. “It could hardly be simpler.”

Garrett said the reality in Iowa is federal law isn’t being enforced, people are crossing the border in record numbers and nobody knows how many illegal immigrants are making it to Iowa.

The bill advanced through Judiciary and will be eligible to be considered by the full Senate.

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