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Bill to mandate employers' use of E-verify could affect thousands of undocumented workers in New Hampshire

Lea esta historia en español

The bill, HB1124, is now in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. It would mandate that businesses use E-Verify – a federal system that proves a person’s eligibility to work legally in the United States.

It’s an optional program in most states, with 22 requiring it for some or all employers.

Republican Representative Tim Baxter, one of the bill’s sponsors, says all businesses in New Hampshire should use the system, from food services to private contractors. He says it is an easy, fast and inexpensive way to hire competent personnel, discouraging illegal immigration.

“This law is about how we can stop illegal immigration in New Hampshire. We want to make it harder for illegal immigrants to be hired here,” he said. Baxter is also running for U.S. Congress in the 1st District.

Here is how the hiring process could change. Currently, when an employer wants to hire someone in New Hampshire, they keep the personal information they gather privately in the employer’s files. That information is not necessarily reported to a federal database.

In contrast, with E-Verify, the person’s information is disclosed to the federal government to be scrutinized in real time when the application is submitted. If an applicant is found to be undocumented, they would immediately be disqualified from the job.

Manchester-based immigration lawyer Ron Abramson says the system is known for having mistakes and omissions. He also says this proposal could violate workers’ fundamental right to not be discriminated against for their country of origin.

“It would be interesting to see if the business community supports this extra burden,” he said.

Bruno D’ Britto, an immigration lawyer and founder of the Brazilian Council, says his organization works with at least 10,000 undocumented immigrants living in New Hampshire who might no longer be able to support their families if the bill passes.

“This is another way to harass immigrants, even documented,” he said.

The bill states the employment of undocumented workers would be prohibited. Still, DACA holders, international students, and Temporary Protected Status holders could be affected by errors in the system. People with that status have to periodically renew their work authorization, and in the case of delays or mistakes, business owners could be obligated to fire those workers.

“False negatives or people told they cannot work for some database error or identity confusion. It’s a highly imperfect system,” said Abramson.

Bill sponsor Tim Baxter says the proposal came from constituents worried about jobs and says he has bipartisan support, but he did not specify who in the Democratic party backed it.

D’Britto says the bill makes little sense amid an employment shortage and calls on the immigrant community to reject what he thinks is a discriminatory proposal.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.

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