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State Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) is taking dead aim at employers who hire people in the country illegally.
Montell this week prefiled a bill that he said he hopes will reduce the number of employees who are in Shelby County illegally by putting more restrictions – and potential penalties – for those who do the hiring.
Montell announced Wednesday that he will introduce BR 58 at the 2012 legislative session that would require all employers with more than 11 workers to use E-Verify, a system that checks Social Security numbers for authenticity.
Employers who have contracts with public agencies, such as highway contractors, would also be required to use the system.
“Persons who are residing in Kentucky illegally need to be put on notice that the commonwealth will no longer turn a blind eye to them breaking the law,” Montell said. “By requiring businesses to do a simple identification check before hiring we can ensure our communities are safer from individuals who chose to come here illegally, as well as preserving our well paying jobs for our citizens.”
The bill would stipulate that any employer who has a contract with public agencies who hires an unauthorized worker would lose that work and be banned from doing work with state agencies for one year.
Their names also would be entered into a database of banned contractors maintained by the Office of Homeland Security.
Montell said this shouldn’t be considered a punitive measure, either by employers or the public.
“The purpose of this is to take away the magnet in Kentucky for those who are coming here illegally,” he said. “There are other magnets, such as social programs, that this doesn’t address, but the federal government does not seem to be doing what they need to be doing, which is protecting our borders from illegal entry, so this is a prudent step we can take.”
State Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), who is a farmer, said that although he agrees that something needs to be done, he is not as enthused as Montell about the potential for the proposed law to do much good.
“First, E-Verify is not a fail-safe system to use,” he said, although Montell had said it was 96 percent accurate. “I use it myself, most of the farmers do in this county, and sometimes it comes back as ‘undocumented,’ though it does help.
“Also, the thing is, this is something that’s not specific to Shelby County; it’s a national problem. And we can try to deal with immigration, but it’s a federal problem.”
Shelby County Jailer Bobby Waits said his jail houses anywhere from 12 to 20 illegal aliens at any one time, and he does agree that they are a burden on the county.
“It costs the jails money to house them, and of those who we have, I would say that about fifty percent of them are working,” Waits said. “Also, I’d like to say, that I personally don’t have anything against people coming in from other countries. All our ancestors did at one time or another, but I also feel strongly that they should be here legally.”
Montell said that this is the first time he has proposed this bill, but the House of Representatives passed similar legislation last year.
“The House passed a form of this last year that only applied to state agencies, but it didn’t make it through the Senate,” he said. “But I think they will be more receptive this time.”
Montell said that 16 other states have passed similar legislation.
“This is not a drastic move,” he said. And it’s not to meant to be punitive to illegal populations; it’s just a way to enforce existing law.”