The Associated Press
DENVER — Attorneys for Oklahoma went before a federal appeals court Monday to defend a law that requires companies doing business with the state to use a federal database to verify their workers and contractors are eligible to work in the U.S.
Sections of the law were blocked by a federal judge in Oklahoma in June after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others challenged it, saying the “E-Verify” program is unreliable and unfairly imposes penalties on employers.
State attorneys told a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday that Congress didn’t bar states from requiring employers to use E-Verify.
The appeals court judges did not indicate when they might rule.
The electronic system allows employers to quickly verify a worker’s eligibility through a computer with an Internet connection using information from an I-9 form, which is a required from everybody working in the U.S.
“Isn’t it a lot simpler” to used the computer system instead of a paper form that takes days to mail, Judge Paul J. Kelly quizzed Carter Phillips, an attorney representing the chamber. “Isn’t it the same database?”
“I don’t understand what the big problem is, quite frankly,” Kelly said.
Congress created E-Verify as part of an immigration bill in 1996 as four-year pilot program in five states, but later expanded it to all 50 states in 2003. Most states don’t require employers to use it.
“Congress did not speak to what states could do,” argued Dan Weitman, Oklahoma assistant attorney general.
The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit last year upheld Arizona’s law that made E-Verify a requirement for all employers, ruling that “Congress could have, but did not, expressly forbid state laws from requiring ‘E-Verify’ participation.”
The chamber and other groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union, labor unions and advocates for immigrants argue that Congress chose not to make E-Verify a requirement because it’s flawed.
“It’s rife with mistakes, which goes to the whole question as to why Congress hasn’t made it mandatory,” Phillips argued.
Kelly later told Phillips: “How can you claim an injury when the clear intent of Congress is to not employ illegal workers?”
Laws similar to Oklahoma’s are in place or being phased in in seven other states, according to the National Immigration Law Center, or NILC, an immigrant advocacy group. Those states are Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Utah.
Three states — Arizona, Mississippi, and South Carolina — require all employers to use E-Verify while two states — Idaho and North Carolina — require it only of public agencies, according to NILC.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-illegal immigration group, defended the system in a phone interview Monday.
“The people who want to perpetuate the status quo don’t want a system that will hold them accountable,” Mehlman said. “The reason they’re hiring illegal immigrants is that they’re benefiting from it.”
Some 87,000 employers — about 1 percent of the nation’s 7.4 million employers — are enrolled in the program, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which jointly maintains the database with the Social Security Administration.
Surveys cited by the NILC found that employers did not find the system easy or efficient and found error rates as high as 13 percent.
“It looks like an easy fix, but what policy-makers don’t realize is that there are very serious issues for employees and businesses,” Tyler Moran, employment policy director for NILC, said in a phone interview.
Other parts of Oklahoma’s immigration law were not affected by the federal judge’s temporary injunction and went into effect in November. Those parts require proof of citizenship to receive certain government benefits and outlawing knowingly transporting illegal immigrants.
The Associated Press
- State News
Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency in Missouri
Gov. Jay Nixon today declared a state of emergency in Missouri in response to severe winter weather that began early this morning, bringing hazardous travel and the possibility of power outages.
Publicist: Andy Williams dies
According to a publicist, Emmy-winning TV host and 'Moon River' crooner Andy Williams has died.
Lions climb into share of MIAA men's basketball lead
Without taking the floor, Missouri Southern has climbed into a first-place tie in the MIAA men’s basketball race.
2.6 magnitude earthquake recorded in Oklahoma
The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded a 2.6 magnitude earthquake near Wellston in central Oklahoma.
No injuries or damage is reported.
Audit: $108,000 taken from Missouri Veterans Commission
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A former employee of the state auditor’s office embezzled nearly $108,000 while working as an accountant for the Missouri Veterans Commission, the state auditor alleged Monday.
Stacy Griffin-Lowery was fired by the Veterans Commission in March 2008 and pleaded guilty three months later to a misdemeanor theft charge. She repaid the state $17,665, the auditor’s office said.
But Missouri Auditor Susan Montee on Monday accused Griffin-Lowery of swiping an additional $90,192 by getting reimbursed for cash advances and purchases made on her personal credit card.
Race in Kansas’ 2nd District could heat up for GOP incumbent
TOPEKA, Kan. — A conservative Kansas legislator said Monday he will announce in a few weeks whether he will challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins in the Republican primary.
State Sen. Dennis Pyle’s actions in recent months suggest the Hiawatha farmer, who’s served in the Legislature since 2001, is running against Jenkins in the Aug. 2 primary. He set up a campaign organization in November and has a Web site featuring a brief video of him on his farm, asking viewers for support.
Oklahoma tea party leaders, lawmakers envision militia
OKLAHOMA CITY — Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.
Tea party movement leaders say they’ve discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force
- Missouri: Senate panel cuts $500 million from proposed budget JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Senate committee declared Thursday that it has sliced more than $500 million from Missouri’s proposed budget for next year — meeting a target set by Gov. Jay Nixon to bring it in balance.
- Kansas: Wichita-area casino in doubt after governor’s decision TOPEKA, Kan. — A proposed casino south of Wichita was in doubt Thursday after Gov. Mark Parkinson refused to grant its developers a regulatory reprieve. Partners in the $225 million Chisholm Creek project wanted to delay a state board’s decision on their plans.
- Oklahoma: Groups oppose education spending initiative OKLAHOMA CITY — A coalition of business and labor groups said Thursday it will work to defeat a ballot initiative to dramatically increase spending on public education that coalition members said would devastate the budgets of many other state services and possibly force tax increases.
- More State News Headlines
- Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency in Missouri