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Local officials worried House bill could cause profiling

BY DORA GROTE | FEBRUARY 08, 2012 7:20 AM

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Local policymakers are concerned over whether a newly presented House bill could spur ethnic profiling in employment.

The bill, House File 2156, would mandate all Iowa employers to use the E-Verify program, which checks potential employees' Social Security numbers in a federal database to ensure they have legal authorization to work in the United States.

Kevin Ward, the University of Iowa assistance vice president for Human Resources, said the university uses E-Verify and doesn't believe profiling is an issue.

The UI uses the program to check all employees funded by federal grants or contracts, he said.

"I don't think we have a strong feeling either way," he said. "From what we have seen in the bill, ethnic profiling did not generate a concern."

The bill would also require county attorneys or the state attorney general to investigate all complaints, anonymous or not, about the employment of unauthorized aliens.

Ruth Schultz, a member of the Iowa Citizens for Community Action Fund, said the bill would indeed create possible ethnic profiling.

"You can't know the status of people just by looking at their faces," Schultz said. "At a place where there are a lot of Latino workers, someone might think, 'That's not right and that they're not working,' and submit a complaint. There is no way someone should just submit a complaint because they think that's happening."

Some legislators disagreed with the Iowa Citizens for Community Action Fund's outlook. Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said the organization is opposing the bill with lobbying interests in mind.

"I don't normally take what [the Iowa Citizens for Community Action Fund] says as gospel," said Forristall, a cosponsor of the bill.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said the whole nature of E-Verify is ethnic profiling.

"It's focusing on populations that are non-white and outside of the U.S.," he said. "I don't think that is the true intent, but I certainly think it will be an outcome of E-Verify."

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said this isn't the first time legislation such as this has been presented. He said the proposals are a political move.

"I'm concerned that people's rights could be violated because of this type of profiling," he said.

Neuzil said Johnson County has not seen any serious problems associated with individuals working in the community, but this bill could create disputes among employees.

"If people believe their constitutionality is being questioned, lawsuits certainly prevail," Neuzil said.

Dvorsky said the I-9 tax form satisfies all requirements for discovering illegal aliens and E-Verify is unnecessary.

"That's what the I-9 is for, to determine who you say you are is who you are and if you are legal to work," he said.

But Forristall insisted that the bill would be in the employers' best interest.

"If I were an employer, I would want to make sure my employees were legal employees," he said.

The bill will be discussed Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee meeting.


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