Pa. weighs measures to curb illegal immigration

    More than a dozen proposals aimed to halt what Pennsylvania House Republican Daryl Metcalfe calls the “invasion” of illegal immigrants are under discussion in Harrisburg.

    One of the measures would allow local law enforcement to verify the citizenship of someone they’ve stopped for a breaking the law–whose immigration status “should be reasonably suspected.”

    Police could then arrest those who were determined to be undocumented.

    Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht said police officers would be able to address the problem of illegal immigration when federal officers “turn the other way.”

    “The real problem I have is that we have a law. People are breaking it. And we are basically handcuffed in doing our job,” said Weaknecht. “And that’s where I have a real problem.”

    Another is patterned after the Arizona law requiring businesses to use the federal E-Verify program to check that their employees are authorized to work in the U.S.

    Kay Hollabaugh, who owns an Adams County fruit farm that relies on legal immigrant workers, said a fellow fruit farmer in Tucson has stopped checking workers against the E-Verify system because it takes too much time.

    “The crops are hanging on the trees. They’re ready to pick. They’re in a desperate situation,” she said. “So they’re not paying into their tax base anymore, they’re being paid cash, under the table.”

    Metcalfe, the sponsor of the E-Verify bill, said it would allow businesses to check the identities of their employees.

    Faith leaders and civil rights activists oppose the measures.

    They say the proposals are distractions and their passage would contribute to a state-by-state patchwork of immigration laws, instead of a much-needed overhaul to national immigration policy.

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