Mandatory E-Verify proposal suffers setback

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DENVER -- A proposal to force all Colorado employers to use E-Verify, the federal government's online immigration database, to check a job seeker's citizenship before they can be hired suffered a setback Wednesday.

After a nearly three-hour hearing, the House Business and Economic Development committee voted 7-5 to send House Bill 1309 to the House Agriculture Committee, which is expected to kill it.

The deciding vote was cast by the committee's chairman, Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, to the chagrin of the bill's two Republican sponsors, Rep. Spencer Swalm of Centennial and Rep. Marsha Looper of Calhan.

"This is a bill that simply says that those jobs that we have in the state should be available for people who are legally here and legally authorized to work," Swalm told FOX31 Denver prior to Wednesday's hearing.

Employers can use E-Verify on their own. Right now, immigration background checks on prospective employers are not done electronically.

"It's a paper-based, burdensome situation for employers," said Trudy Haines, a business owner who testified in support of the bill. "E-Verify brings us into the 21st century by using a web-based tool that's extremely accurate."

But Democrats and immigration rights advocates took issue with that assessment.

"Many workers will find they'll be rejected when they apply for jobs simply because of a misspelling in their name. The system simply is flawed and not reliable," said Julien Ross, the executive director of the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition. "There's a disproportionate rejection of minorities and new citizens in this country."

"This is just another regulation on businesses that we don't need in Colorado," said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. "We have plenty of safeguards to prevent people who are inelgivle to work in the United States already in place."

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