E-verify debate continues, even as house bill fades

NOTE: This post is an update on this story. Sorry if you are offended by its lack of snark. I’ll make up for it with my next post, I promise.

The Washougal City Council passed a law Monday night that will require contractors to use E-verify on all public works projects within the city to ensure new employees are eligible to work in the United States.

The city previously required E-verify use for projects above $100,000. In passing its new law Monday, Washougal joined Camas, La Center and Vancouver, as Clark County cities who require contractors use E-verify for all public works projects.

Had House Bill 2568 sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, D-Seattle, passed last month, the law the Washougal council approved Monday would have been moot.

Gutierrez Kenney’s bill would have stopped cities and counties from mandating contractors use E-verify, a federal online-based program that checks employee’s records against those on file. The state of Washington does not mandate E-verify use.

House Bill 2568 did not make it out of the House, however.

The bill likely would have had the necessary support, but legislators were “leery” of taking on immigration matters this election year, Gutierrez Kenney said during a phone interview Tuesday.

She maintained the losses E-verify would cause small businesses would outweigh the strides it made to ensure a legal workforce.

“We’re asking our small businesses to do I.C.E. work, which is unfair,” Gutierrez Kenney said, referring to Immigrations and Custom Enforcement. E-verify would, in essence, make it more difficult for smaller contractors to compete for local government contracts, she added.

E-verify could also have “devastating” impacts on individual workers and their families, if legal workers are incorrectly found ineligible, Gutierrez Kenney said.

The push to end mandatory E-verify use in Washington state might be gone for now, but it will return, Gutierrez Kenney promised.

“It will come back up next year, definitely,” she said. Federal immigration reform, not mandatory E-verify use at the local level, is the answer to the country’s immigration problems, she added.

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