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Community Matters, Government, Missouri & Ozarks

Voting Matters: E-Verify (Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification System)

On February 7, 2012, Springfield voters will get the opportunity to decide whether "business entities" will have to use E-Verify to determine the eligibility of their employees to work.

What is E-Verify?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service defines E-Verify as "an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility."

Why does E-Verify exist?

Simply put, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working to stop unauthorized employment. By using E-Verify, businesses become part of the solution in addressing this problem.

Who uses E-Verify Now?

As of September 2011, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service reported that more than 288,000 employers, large and small, use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of their employees, with about 1,200 new businesses signing up each week.

If hiring illegal immigrants is against the law, isn't E-Verify already mandatory?

Participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most businesses. Some businesses may be required by state law or federal regulation to use E-Verify. For example, most employers in Arizona and Mississippi are required to use E-Verify. E-Verify is also mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause.

Currently, businesses in the state of Missouri or the city of Springfield who do not have federal contracts or subcontracts are not required by law to participate in E-Verify.

Who proposed the local ordinance and what do they want to accomplish?

The Ozarks Minutemen initiated this petition to the City. From its website, the group states the following: "The purpose of this initiative petition is to prohibit any business entity licensed by the city of Springfield, MO from knowingly recruiting, hiring for employment, or continuing to employ any person who is an unlawful worker, specifically an illegal alien, for the purpose of performing work in whole or part within the City. The petition further requires all business entities licensed or permitted by the City to enroll and participate in the Basic Pilot Program for the duration of the validity of the business license or permit granted to the business entity." It goes on to say that, "The Basic Pilot Program, currently known as E-Verify, is a federal program that provides an electronic means of determining the work eligibility status of workers."

Read the full legal language of the petition [pdf] from the City of Springfield.

What is the controversy about?

Controversy surrounds specific passages of the ordinance. Many opponents cite who the ordinance would cover, noting the definition of a "business entity," as well as other definitions that are cited as too broad.

The Springfield News-Leader published an article on January 7 that goes over the text of the ordinance with commentary on some of the more controversial passages. Commentators included Springfield city attorney Dan Wichmer; Jerry Wilson and Jerry Long of the Ozarks Minutemen; Joe Robles, a local businessman who has helped organize opposition to the ordinance; Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky, who drafted an analysis of the proposal on behalf of opponents, and local attorneys Doug Harpool and Dee Wampler, who reviewed the ordinance at the News-Leader's request and offered opinions on how parts of it might be interpreted.

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Springfield Chapter of NAACP both oppose the E-Verify ordinance.

Want to know more?

A second E-Verify forum will take place Thursday, February 2 from 6:30-8:30PM at Missouri State University Meyer Library auditorium. Ozarks Minutemen Jerry Wilson and Jerry Long will speak in support of the proposed ordinance. Joe Robles, a local businessman, and Michael Stout, assistant professor of sociology at MSU, will represent opponents.

The League of Women Voters is joining with the Springfield-Greene County Civility Project to present a community forum on the pros and cons of the proposed E-Verify ordinance from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31, at the Central High School auditorium. Read the News-Leader's account of the forum here.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services -- Learn more about E-Verify, watch free webinars and find out what's new.

Three of the "most active" Ozarks Minutemen agreed to an interview with the Springfield News-Leader. Read the article from January 21 here.


Voting Matters is a series of articles written by Library staff to provide information and resources during the 2012 political season.

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