EXETER – When Governor Lincoln Chafee rescinded the E-Verify program established by his predecessor, Don Carcieri, as one of his first official acts in office back in January, it was a controversial move that several senators throughout the state objected to.
Now, local Senators Francis T. Maher, Jr., (Dist. 34, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Exeter, Richmond and West Greenwich) and Sen. James Sheehan (Dist. 36, North Kingstown and Narragansett) have decided to do something about it.
With the help of Senators Marc Cote (Dist. 24, Woonsocket and North Smithfield), Nick Kettle (Dist. 21, Coventry, Foster and Scituate) and Beth Moura (Dist. 19, Cumberland and Lincoln), Maher and Sheehan have introduced legislation that would put that controversial program back into law.
“Making E-Verify part of our General Laws will ensure that Rhode Island is complying with federal employment eligibility standards," Maher said. "And that contractors employed by the state meet the requirements to hold a job legally in the United States.”
Sheehan co-sponsored the legislation mainly because “folks are breaking the law.”
“Millions come into this country lawful, wait their turn and play by the rules," Sheehan said. "Since our government is unwilling to make sure these persons are not criminals, it’s now become our job by default.”
Sheehan asks the question: Why are employers hiring illegal immigrants? He doesn’t know the answer but has some thoughts.
“If employees are treated unfairly and are paid low wages, who are they going to complain to?," he asks. "Many employers say 'No American’s would want these types of jobs' and 'illegal immigrants work harder'. Well, that’s simple untrue. We’re in a serious crisis and Americans are looking for any job and will do whatever it takes.”
E-Verify is an internet program operated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), as a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for employers to determine the validity of an applicant’s or employee’s social security number. Persons and businesses doing business with the state utilize this system to check on employment eligibility.
If E-Verify becomes effective, a person or business doing business with the state who knowingly employs someone in violation of the United States immigration laws or has not implemented the E-Verify program for all newly hired employees may face disciplinary action by the state including, but not limited to, cancellation of contracts and/or suspending or debarring the contract vendor from doing business with the State.
According to the new legislation (2011-S 0337), because Congress and President Barack Obama have been unable to resolve the problem of illegal immigration, there are between 20,000 and 40,000 illegal immigrants in Rhode Island, which is more than the population of 32 of the state’s 39 cities and towns.
The law further states that, because of illegal immigrants, a “burden on the resources of state and local human, law enforcement agencies, educational institutes and other governmental institutions" is created.
“We’re a nation made up of laws and no ones is above that,” said Sheehan.
The bill will now go before the Senate Committee on Judiciary. A companion bill, (2011-H 5043) was introduced in the House by Rep. Palumbo.