The debate over a proposed requirement that public works employees in Pennsylvania be checked against a federal database has dredged up old arguments over privacy and homeland security.
State House committee members have approved a bill that would make such contractors check the legal status of their employees through the national E-Verify program.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican who chairs the panel, said the proposal is intended to stop illegal immigration to Pennsylvania and free up jobs for documented workers.
“This is very consistent with current law that I support, and that’s to verify when you hire somebody that they actually are a citizen, or that they’re a resident alien, or somebody here on a worker’s visa that’s allowed to work,” he said.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Babette Josephs, and civil rights advocates, however, argue the plan raises questions about personal privacy and state’s rights.
She said the vote reflects the inconsistency of lawmakers who opposed using the federal Real ID program to replace state driver’s licenses with national identification for the sake of preventing terrorism.
“People who are against Real ID think it’s going to affect them. The people who are against Real ID and are for E-Verify don’t think it’s going to affect them, so it’s OK,” Josephs said. “It’s the same scheme.”
Josephs says the E-Verify bill would compromise the privacy of Pennsylvanians.
The bill is part of a larger package of crackdowns on undocumented residents. It awaits state House consideration.