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Old 09-19-2010, 05:34 AM
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Default Costa Mesa mayor unveils anti-illegal immigration plan

Costa Mesa mayor unveils anti-illegal immigration plan


Sept. 14, 2010

COSTA MESA Businesses in this city may be required to verify the immigration status of employees as a condition of their business permits, if the City Council takes action on an idea brought up for discussion Tuesday.

Council members asked city lawyers to research the legality of requiring city business to use E-Verify, a free online federal system that allows employers to check the validity of a new hire's Social Security number to determine whether he or she is authorized to work in the United States.

The council discussed three aspects of an eventual plan, using E-Verify in hiring city staff, requiring city contractors and vendors to use it, and requiring all businesses in the city to use it.

The proposal is being pushed by Mayor Allan Mansoor, who did not advocate a position during a study session, saying, "I want to look at those options."

Several Orange County cities, such as Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda, have made E-Verify mandatory in city hiring and for those employers looking to contract with the city, but City Manager Allan Roeder said that only two local jurisdictions nationwide are known to have made it a requirement for all businesses: Lancaster, Calif. and Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Beaufort County randomly audits businesses to enforce the measure.

Mansoor, who is making a run for the state Assembly, said the plan is the catalyst to start open discussion about the possible measure and to provide direction to city staff to research the proposal.

"It's just one piece of the puzzle. It's really going to boil down to all cities doing their part about illegal immigration," he said. "We're just trying to do our part."

Roeder said told council members there were two issues for any version of the proposal: legality and cost.

It would take "little review" to ensure that it was legal for the city to use E-Verify in its own hiring, he said.

"For procurement, it would take a bit more expanded legal research," he said.

The presumprion is that it would be legal for procurement, since the federal government requires its vendors to use E-Verify.

But there would need to be "substantial" legal review before imposing the requirement on businesses.

"Irrespective of what Lancaster and others do, business licensing has never been regulatory in nature," Roeder said. "This changes the very foundation of the business license program."

If the council decides to require businesses to use E-Verify, it would then need to decide whether to actively enforce the law, which would require hiring new staff, or whether to just respond to complaints, Roeder said.

He gave the example of the city's drug-free workplace law, which applies to city businesses but is not actively enforced.

"This just seems more symbolic than anything else," Councilwoman Katrina Foley said. "Somebody just checks a box on an application."

Mansoor, who is making a run for the state Assembly, said the plan is the catalyst to start open discussion about the possible measure and to provide direction to city staff to research the proposal.

"It's just one piece of the puzzle. It's really going to boil down to all cities doing their part about illegal immigration," he said. "We're just trying to do our part."

This is Mansoor's latest attempt to crack down on illegal immigration within his city. It comes about six months after leaders in the anti-illegal immigration movement asked why such a fervent leader in the county's fight against illegal immigration had not yet gotten around to implementing the federal E-Verify program in his city. The program has been around for about six years.

Click here to find out which employers in your city use E-Verify as of Janaury of this year.

Mansoor, who launched himself into the frontlines of the illegal immigration debate five years ago, garnered national headlines when he aligned himself with the Minuteman Project and pushed for a program that trained officers to perform some duties of federal immigration agents.

He also led his city's targeting of day laborers, but said at the time that other issues -- the budget and fairgrounds sale -- had taken priority over E-Verify. He added that the program and other types of enforcement measures were on his "radar."

About two months later, he held a press conference where he said he sought more stringent policies, from requiring Costa Mesa businesses to verify a workers' immigration status to allowing police officers to check legal status and valid identification of unlicensed drivers, especially when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are not present at the jail.

Soon after, he again found himself in the middle of the heated national debate over illegal immigration, after the Costa Mesa City Council passed a resolution declaring itself a "Rule of Law City" at his behest. The declaration came on the heels of Arizona's governor signing SB1070, a controversial measure that sought to crack down on illegal immigration. The most contentious parts of the bill were put on hold by a District Court judge.

E-Verify started in 1996 as a pilot program in seven states. It was expanded to all 50 states in 2004.

A little more than 1 percent of Orange County's roughly 95,000 employers had signed up for E-Verify as of Jan 26 of this year, when comparing employment and Department of Homeland Security data.

Currently, the computer program is only mandatory for businesses contracting with the federal government. The program is completely voluntary for other employers, though they're encouraged to use it.

In O.C., only a few cities -- such as Orange, Brea and Buena Park have enrolled with E-Verify.

While immigrant rights groups say the system is riddled with errors, anti-illegal immigration activists say it is the best tool to screen for illegal workers because it attempts to match a new hire's Social Security number and other Form I-9 information.

"I know it's had some success in other cities," Mansoor said.

He points to the city of Lancaster, which requires businesses within the city to use E-Verify.

Arizona law also requires employers to verify the eligibility of prospective employees through E-Verify and imposes sanctions on companies that knowingly hire people who are in the country illegally.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court in June announced that it would hear a challenge to the Arizona law that cracks down on employers who knowingly hire people who are working in the country illegally.

Unlike Arizona, California does not require businesses to use E-Verify.
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