- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rick Santorum has called for every business in the country to use E-Verify, the government’s database for screening out illegal immigrant workers, but his own presidential campaign has not signed up to use the program.

That is not a national problem because the system is still voluntary on the federal level. But it could be a problem if Mr. Santorum hired any staff in Arizona, which holds its primary next week and which has made use of E-Verify mandatory for anyone doing business there.

It also could have been a problem in South Carolina, where a similar law went into effect at the beginning of this year — three weeks before that state’s primary.

Mr. Santorum’s campaign didn’t respond to more than a half-dozen emails and phone calls seeking comment about the situation.

Two of his fellow candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, also have called for the program to be made mandatory for all businesses, but their campaign teams’ records are mixed.

Mr. Romney has an outside payroll consultant that his campaign said checks the hires through E-Verify in the states where it’s required. That company, Insperity, is a registered user of the system.

“The Romney campaign uses E-Verify in a number of states and, in other states, completes all required paperwork to ensure all employees are eligible to work in the United States,” said Amanda Henneberg, a campaign spokeswoman.

Mr. Gingrich also uses an Arizona-based company for his campaign hiring in that state, a spokesman said.

But Mr. Gingrich said he does not use the system for his own suite of companies, including Gingrich Productions and the Center for Health Transformation. He said he is certain that everyone he has hired is legal, so running names through the database would be useless.

“I don’t think we hire anybody who would qualify for it. I think everybody we hire right now is an American citizen,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview.

Under the terms of voluntary E-Verify use, companies must screen every new hire and cannot pick and choose based on suspicion that someone might be foreign or might be in the country illegally.

Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA, which advocates a crackdown on illegal immigration and lobbies for mandatory E-Verify use, said Mr. Gingrich’s answer showed a misunderstanding of the system.

“I guess we have a lot more education to do if Gingrich is unaware that E-Verify is for all new hires, not just for those who say they’re not citizens or don’t seem to be citizens,” she said.

Ms. Jenks said it was a good sign that at least some of the campaigns are obeying the state laws, but that the candidates could do better in leading by example nationwide.

“It certainly would be nice if candidates who are calling for E-Verify were actually going out of their way to use E-Verify. At the very least, using it would show them what a good system it is,” Ms. Jenks said.

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