PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island businesses would stand on the front lines of efforts to crack down on illegal immigration under a legislative proposal to require employers to check the immigration status of every job applicant.

The measure is one of several proposals dealing with illegal immigration scheduled to go to a state Senate hearing Tuesday.

The bill would require businesses with at least three employees to verify the legal residency status of all new hires through the federal E-Verify system. The online database allows employers to check whether an applicant is a citizen or otherwise allowed to work in the U.S.

Under former Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, the state used E-Verify to check the employment status of applicants for jobs with the state and its contractors. But Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, abolished that practice when he took office in January.

More than 2,500 Rhode Island businesses already use E-Verify.

Supporters say mandating the use of the free federal database will discourage companies from hiring illegal workers.

To help businesses make the transition, the requirement would be gradually phased in, with larger corporations starting to use E-Verify first.

“It’s not unreasonable,” said state Sen. Marc Cote, D-Woonsocket, one of several sponsors of the legislation. “We have people looking for work, and we have some employers who are taking advantage of people who can’t legally work here.”

Arizona and Mississippi have mandated E-Verify for most businesses. Other states require E-Verify for government and contractor hiring.

Critics say Rhode Island is a long way from the border and that lawmakers have more pressing problems to address.

“This is only for political games,” said Juan Garcia of the group Immigrants in Action. “Rhode Island doesn’t need this. They see another state do it and they want to do it here.”

Garcia said he worries that some legal workers could be denied jobs if businesses don’t use the E-Verify system correctly.

Lawmakers have introduced several other bills addressing illegal immigration this year. One would require the state and its contractors to use E-Verify when hiring, direct state troopers to assist in federal immigration enforcement, and instruct state and local police to check the status of anyone taken into custody.

Terry Gorman, director of the group Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, supports most of the bills. But he worries that opposition from Chafee and the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders might spell their doom this year.

“I’d like to see facets of an Arizona-style bill here in Rhode Island,” Gorman said, referring to that state’s new law addressing illegal immigration. “The public supports it. When are the elected officials going to listen?”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. emom says:

    AH should this even be a DEBATE, we are over run with illegal immagrants, passing of as americans, sending their kids to our schools, getting their ederly on Social Security and medicare. and dont even get me started on fraudulant ids, just so sthey can stay here, YES crack away, do as arizona is doing, sick of paying for those that have never earned their way thru life,

  2. Denise says:

    We make it to easy for them – that’s why they come here! We GIVE them everything… when we make those that lived and died for this country jump through hoops to get what they have earned!

    In Puerto Rico – there is a bridge that has/had spray painted on it… if you want a “FREE” life go to Fitchburg, MA! what does that say???

    Arizona has the right idea on may fronts… Pink uniforms and tents for the prisoners… but unfortunately – the Criminals seem to have all the rights in this state!!! Must be why they call it CRIMINAL JUSTICE!

  3. Frank Bowers, FIC, Catholic says:

    We in have to many politicians listening to too many illegal aliens and to too many lulac members as well as other brown skinned membered organizations instead of the citizens of America. We citizens can not be heard due to the minority who seem to be heard over the voters. Just yesterday it was written the illegal aliens in New Mexico who were issues NM Drivers License were allowed to vote in Local, State and National Elections. So now they are electing our politicians so that may explain why they want them, I don’t think it is right, but perhaps that is why.
    I live in Texas and we have to many cities which have no control over the illegal and do not even try to control them as they say they do not wish to do so such as Austin, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, I would imagine they are hundreds of thousands of illegals voting in the cities, state, and national elections here. It is time to correct this here and nationally.
    Frank Bowers, FIC

  4. CEO says:

    Do you think Massachusetts would ever consider a law like Rhode Island’s?

    I didn’t think so. Massachusetts ranks a zero on the common sense scale.

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