Reid Declines Vote on Illegal Worker Plan - 8 News NOW

Reid Declines Vote on Illegal Worker Plan

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LAS VEGAS -- In this election season, Senator Harry Reid's campaign events often include claims of how many stimulus funded jobs he's created. But how many of these construction jobs are going to workers in the country illegally?

E-Verify is a computer program many employers use to determine if job applicants are U.S. citizens. Construction companies are not forced to use the official E-Verify system to determine if construction job applicants are in this country legally.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions introduced an amendment in 2009 that would have made E-Verify permanent and mandatory for all construction companies. Senator Reid did not allow the idea to come up for a vote.

"The reason: we need to do comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot do it piecemeal," said Reid.

"When you go to the unemployment office there's many U.S. citizens who are unemployed construction workers and they don't have jobs because right now, some of those construction companies find it easier to hire undocumented workers," said Reporter Nathan Baca.

"I think that any information you have in that regard is absolutely without foundation," responded Reid.

But a Pew Hispanic Center study shows 17-percent of all construction workers are in the United States illegally. Reid says not in Nevada. "That may be some place, but it's not here in Nevada."

But their latest 2009 numbers show Nevada is the state with the highest percentage of "unauthorized immigrants" in the labor force.

Reid's office also says that E-Verify is inaccurate, citing recent Social Security Administration numbers. But the federal government's own contracted accountant found E-Verify worked 99-percent of the time.

It's flaw: it was too easy for illegal immigrants to pass through identity fraud and cheat the system.

At the local union hall, some say waiting for comprehensive immigration reform will take too long; they need job protection now.

"When our members -- the workers -- the men and women who are trying to pay their mortgage and raise their families locally see jobs going to out of state contractors, out of state workers, illegal workers, it's certainly challenging for them," said Steve Ross with the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union.

Senator Ensign's office says they support making E-Verify permanent and mandatory. In a statement, they say, "Ensign believes this country's immigration policy must demand accountability from those who hire illegal workers by having a national employee verification system that employers would be required to use to verify the legal status of their new and existing employees. Sen. Ensign supported the passage of the pilot Electronic Employment Verification (E-Verify) program in 1996 and the re-authorization's in 2001, 2003, and 2008 and cosponsored a bill in the 110th Congress that would have made the E-Verify Program permanent."

Senator Reid's office gave a statement Monday afternoon: "One single amendment is not the silver bullet to fixing our broken immigration system. We need comprehensive reform that secures the borders, requires 12 million illegal immigrants to get right with the law, and stops employers from lowering wages by exploiting illegal labor."

Reid's immigration reform outline calls for: 

  • A fraud proof social security card for all workers with biometric information.
  • Raising penalties (monetary and legal) for employers who hire unauthorized workers.
  • Requires 10 million illegals in the U.S. to register with the government, pay fines and taxes, learn English and go to the end of the line.
  • Secures the border as a precondition to other clauses taking effect.
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