Temecula Reluctantly Bows to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Indifference to American Workers

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

December 4, 2011

In Temecula (CA.), a hot and heavy debate centered on E-Verify has come to a boil. Temecula is a city in Riverside County with a population of 102,000. Population growth during the past decade has increased by 57 percent. According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, Riverside is 45 percent Hispanic, up from 37.6 in 2000.

These demographic  statistics---lots of people moving in, many of them Hispanic, some of them certainly illegal aliens and all of them putting pressure on the job market---makes Temecula an interesting E-Verify test case. In a perfect world, enthusiasm for E-Verify in Temecula and other similar municipalities would be high.

But in California, competing agendas make E-Verify a tough sell. Earlier this week, the Temecula City Council voted to keep the city’s E-Verify ordinance on its books but at the same time told official not to enforce it.

The council’s action was taken in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s new state legislation that prohibits cities from requiring businesses to use the federally run E-Verify system to ensure that employees are legally authorized to work. The Internet-based system allows employers to check workers' information against immigration and Social Security records. [Council Members Furious with Sacramento over E-Verify, by Jeff Horseman, Press-Enterprise, November 29, 2011]

The California law, which takes effect Jan. 1, voids the council ordinance passed in July 2010 that would require city business license applicants to run E-Verify checks on new hires.

The unanimous council vote (5-0) triggered passions on both sides. Supporters, including many on the council who were described as "fuming" at what they perceived as Brown’s usurpation of local power, said that E-Verify is a valuable tool that keeps illegal aliens out of jobs while at the same time opening them up to Americans.

In reference to Governor Brown’s power play, Councilwoman Maryann Edwards said:

"There were few tools available to local governments to ensure that residents were provided with jobs. This was one of the few tools we had available to us. Now that’s been taken away from us."

E-Verify opponents, taking their cue from the Hispanic-dominated California Legislature, fell back on the inaccurate claim that the program is a costly mandate for businesses and the data base on which it relies is inaccurate.

This is nonsense. E-Verify is free to all its users. No matter how you slice it, a free program can never become costly. And although E-Verify has been criticized for its supposed flaws, the program is more than 99 percent accurate. In more nearly 15 years of its use (it was introduced in 1996 as the Basic Pilot Program), there has never been a case where an authorized worker lost his job because of E-Verify error.

The best E-Verify summary came from John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Morton is not normally on our side.

In a March CSPAN interview, Morton said:

"It will be a lot harder for people to come here illegally for labor if they know that when they get here there will be an effort to verify whether or not they have employment authorization. And so, if we can create across the country a uniform effort by employers to follow the law and make sure the people that they hire are here lawfully and have work authorization we will greatly reduce the magnet for illegal labor."

See the entire interview here

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