Wednesday, March 28, 2007

One piece of legislation this year which attracted much interest is House Bill 1804. HB 1804 is the immigration reform bill sponsored by Representative Randy Terrel (R-Moore). This bill is viewed as one of the most aggressive pieces of state legislation in the nation dealing with immigration reform.

A few weeks ago after much debate, the bill passed the house on a vote of 88-9. It is now in the hands of the Senate where it appears it faces a strong challenge. Some may wonder what changed between house passage and senate consideration to make the bill more vulnerable.

A key point of contention appears to be an attempt in the bill to hold employers accountable for hiring illegal aliens. The idea is that if employers stop being complicit in offering jobs to illegals, then illegals seeking employment will re-channel their energies into securing legal status.

The bill requires any business working under a state contract to verify social security numbers of their perspective employees in order to ensure they are legal. The bill encourages other businesses (those not under state contract) to verify social security numbers of perspective employees through the following means--it allows American employees who are terminated at a business which does not verify social security numbers to file an action with the Department of Labor if they were terminated while an illegal alien remains on that business payroll.

It is this provision that seems to have drawn the wrath of the Research Institute of Economic Development (RIED). Each year RIED publishes an index that grades legislators on how friendly they are to business interests. Each issue is graded on a scale of -20 to +20. In one of their latest updates, RIED indicated they will be grading immigration reform as a -20 vote. In other words, any lawmaker who votes for immigration reform will likely have a very hard time getting a real strong REID index score.

This is why immigration reform may face an uphill climb in the Senate. If the bill does pass the Senate, it may be a watered-down version which may not prevent employers from turning a blind eye to illegal immigration in their hiring practices. The sad reality of the situation dictates that unless we dry up the jobs, then illegal immigration will probably continue to be a major problem.

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