LANSING — Recently Michigan State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, reversed his plan to put both House Bills 4024 and 4026 to a vote and placed them on hold until the fall.
Both bills require state contractors and temporary staffing companies to use the federal E-Verify system when hiring workers through a temporary staffing agency, or to work on a government contract.
Opponents of the bills say it would force thousands of immigrant and Michigan workers out of their jobs, and take away the ability of many immigrants to work in the state.
E-Verify is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. The free program compares information from a person's Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from the U.S. government. A person is eligible to work depending on whether the information compared matches, but if a mismatch occurs the employer is notified. Individuals can work in the case of a mismatch under the condition that they address the issue by contacting the appropriate agency and resolving the mismatch within a limited amount of time.
The Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, UAW Local 600 and local 6000, the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce, UFCW and UNITE-HERE all oppose the bills. The bills crumbled with opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. People from all across Michigan gathered in Lansing to rally against the bills. Supporters of Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform (AIR) packed hearing rooms, jammed phone lines, and filled email boxes at the capital speaking out against the bills. More than 2000 emails were sent to members of the committee, and hundreds of calls were made.
According to AIR the database used to check the work eligibility is full of negative errors, and between 17 to 24 percent of immigrants who are authorized to work receive false negative reports, including U.S. citizens. Immigrant workers affected by the system include naturalized U.S. citizens and Green Card holders. "It will really hamper any employer trying to attract talented immigrant workers," AIR Director Ryan Bates said.
Opponents also say the bills are another attack on immigrant workers, families, and students who are often used to blame for economic turmoil that has spread around the country. Arguments that tax dollars should instead be spent on challenges such as schools, jobs and infrastructure have come up during debates on the bills. E-Verify is currently a voluntary program, but it's mandatory for some employers to use.
Bates says the bills would hurt Michigan's reputation as an immigrant friendly state, consequently making it unattractive to companies that are considering investing in it. He says the solution to fixing the immigration system in the United States is at the federal level. "We need the president to step up and Congress to pass various reforms," Bates said.