Proposed immigration reforms in Congress could change hiring practices.
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Continuing his push for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, President Bush went to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today and touted a new system that would enable employers to determine the legality of those they were hiring.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I think this is sensible. I think, if we want to enforce our laws, people ought to be required to check to see whether or not names and numbers match.
The provision, included in both the Senate and House bills, is called the Employment Verification System.
The nation's 6.5 million employers would be required to check an electronic database to determine if future workers are here legally and entitled to work. Those who knowingly employ illegal immigrants could face fines as high as $20,000 per worker and jail time for repeat offenses.
During Senate debate on the plan, both sides of the aisle stressed its significance.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: This is probably the single most important thing that we can do, in terms of reducing the inflow of undocumented workers: making sure that we can actually enforce, in a systematic way, rules governing who gets hired.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), Iowa: What we are trying to do is balance the needs of workers and employers and the immigration enforcement.
It's been a crime to employ illegal workers since the passage of the 1986 immigration law, but studies have shown that penalties have not been widely enforced.
The new program is intended to replace one known as Basic Pilot, an optional verification system in place since 1997. To date, only a small fraction of the nation's employers have participated.