LINCOLN — Nebraskans could better compete for jobs if all employers had to check the immigration status of new hires through a federal database, a legislative committee was told Monday.
But lawmakers are unlikely to debate this year whether to require employers to use the E-Verify database.
State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, Business and Labor Committee chairman, said he has no plans to seek a committee vote on a bill that would require such checks, even though he introduced it.
“I think it's had its day,” he said after a public hearing on Legislative Bill 1073.
Current Nebraska law requires businesses holding state contracts to check newly hired employees against the federal E-Verify database. The database shows whether a person is eligible to work in the United States.
LB 1073 would extend the requirement to all employers that are subject to workers compensation laws.
Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom urged support for the bill, saying it would protect Nebraska jobs and ensure that all Nebraska businesses operate on a level playing field.
But Alan Peterson, speaking for ACLU Nebraska, said the database continues to have problems with accuracy. Criminal sanctions in the bill also make it problematic, he said.
Earlier, Lathrop described the bill as “an expression of frustration” about the continuing difficulties faced by workers in the building trades who are passed over by some employers who hire illegal immigrants instead.
Steve Simpson, president of the Lincoln Building Construction Trades Unions, said some firms hide behind the idea that there is a shortage of skilled workers, which he called a “myth.”
“We have people unemployed who are willing to take jobs for the right wages,” Simpson said.
Neutral on the bill, Jim Partington of the Nebraska Restaurant Association testified that state legislation may be unnecessary. Immigration proposals pending in Congress would extend the E-Verify requirement to all employers, he said.
Some businesses criticize the database as costly, while others question its reliability and effects on legal immigrant workers, he said.