Dallas Morning News by Christy Hoppe
AUSTIN — Business interests, including small contractors and GOP stalwarts, have raised concerns that could derail proposals to fine or lock up employers who hire illegal immigrants, Rep. Byron Cook, chairman of a top House committee, said Thursday.
Measures before the House State Affairs Committee would require employers to use the federal E-Verify system or make other good-faith efforts before hiring new workers, to ensure they are citizens or authorized to work in the U.S.
The toughest bill, by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, would make intentionally hiring an illegal immigrant subject to jail time, although family maids and gardeners were exempted.
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It’s part of a broad effort in the House to tackle illegal immigration, with measures that would challenge automatic U.S. citizenship for children born on American soil to illegal immigrants, and resolutions exhorting Congress to do a better job of securing the borders.
But when it comes to employment verification, businesses are pushing back. A steady stream of people testified that the E-Verify system is flawed, has too many false-positives and can be easily skirted by businesses that claim their workers are “independent contractors” not subject to the system.
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Only a few people spoke in favor of the bills, saying the state should punish those who offer the jobs that attract immigrants and keep them in the country illegally. The bills were left pending in the committee.