- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - All Missouri employers would be required to use a federal verification system to check employees’ legal resident status under legislation introduced Monday by a Republican lawmaker that’s aimed at curbing the number of immigrants working illegally in the state.

The bill by state Rep. Mark Parkinson, of St. Charles, would require every employer to use the federal work authorization program known as E-Verify or face fines of as much as $100,000 or closure.

Businesses could have their licenses suspended for up to 30 days on the first offense. Current law requires a 14-day suspension. Second-time offenders could lose their licenses for up to a year, and those with three violations would have their licenses revoked.

Parkinson’s bill comes as immigration again is drawing national attention. President Barack Obama recently used his executive authority to extend deportation relief and work permits to some 4 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. His action would affect those who have been here more than five years and have children.

Parkinson said backlash against the president’s order could mean his legislation has a better chance of passage during the session that begins in January. A similar bill passed the House but died in a Senate committee last session.

If the federal government won’t enforce immigration laws, Parkinson said, “it’s up to the state to do so.”

About 65,000 immigrants were living illegally in Missouri according to 2012 estimates from the Pew Research Center.

Business leaders and members of immigrant advocacy groups have opposed past efforts to require employers to check an employees’ legal resident status.

Associated Industries of Missouri President Ray McCarty said the bill would unfairly burden businesses with enforcing federal immigration laws and could be particularly difficult for small businesses who only hire several new employees each year.

Advocates have similarly called on the federal government to address immigration and cautioned against state regulation as the national debate creeps slowly forward.

“It’s not worth risking people’s jobs and livelihood over an imperfect reporting system at the state level,” said Sarah Rossi of the Missouri American Civil Liberties Union, referencing flaws in the E-Verify program that sometimes lead to false negatives. Rossi is the state director of policy and advocacy for the state ACLU.

A report commissioned by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released in 2012 showed that E-Verify incorrectly identified employees as not work authorized about 0.3 percent of the time.

Rossi said inaccurate readings likely would be the least of the problems an E-Verify expansion could bring, and the program “at worst could be used as another means to discriminate against people with Hispanic surnames.”

Missouri already requires public and private employers that receive loans, contracts or grants from the state to participate in E-Verify.


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