A Senate committee rejected a bill that would penalize employers who don’t use a federal computer database to verify workers’ immigration status and who end up hiring illegal immigrants.
After three hours of debate, mostly tilted against the measure, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 on March 8 against the proposal, which would have mandated that Idaho employers use a federal computer system known as E-Verify or otherwise face penalties for hiring workers unauthorized to work in the United States.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, would have required Idaho companies with more than five employees to use E-Verify; impose license suspensions or revocations for “knowingly” employing illegal immigrants; and allow citizens and businesses to file complaints with the state attorney general’s office. Companies could also have state contracts canceled.
It also contained several controversial proposals, including one that would require the written portion of Idaho’s driving test to be conducted solely in English with no help from a translator.
Lawmakers heard from a range of business groups, who complained that the bill would impose the greatest burdens on smaller employers, establish an unequal system that punishes only businesses with licenses and hurt sectors like the dairy industry that rely on foreign-born labor but have no access to year-round guest worker programs.
They argued that only the fair solution for Idaho businesses would be reform at the federal level.
The committee was also scheduled to hear a separate immigration-related bill, which would penalize employers who hire people that use false documents. That hearing was delayed for another day.