It look's like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.
Tonight (Monday) the Springfield City Council meeting will hear both sides of a recent debate surrounding an initiative petition. This petition addresses the topic of local illegal immigrant workers. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with parties on both sides of this issue and has this report.
An initiative petition started by the Ozarks Minutemen, with over 2,000 signatures, is up for discussion at the Springfield City Council meeting. The Minutemen are a group of 12 to 15 individuals who say they have had first hand experience of how illegal immigrants have affected larger cities across the country. Jerry Wilson is the director of communications for the Ozarks Minutemen, and says that the proposed initiative is designed to do two things.
“The first requires the use of E-Verify to determine a person’s eligibility to work in the United States. The second provides local business owners with an avenue for relief when they find themselves in competition with an unscrupulous business owner who is hiring illegal aliens,” Wilson says.
Wilson says that E-Verify is a free program available online to employers. It uses a person’s social security number to check for employment eligibility. He adds that this program does not check for immigration status, only an applicant’s legal right to work.
Wilson says that some business owners hire illegal workers because they can pay them less and do not have to provide the same protections as they would legal workers. He says this is simply not a fair practice to other employers. Wilson says that currently there is no way for employers to stay competitive if they’re minding all the rules, and that sometimes state and federal governments just look the other way.
“The proposed ordinance provides for business owners to contact the city to say to them that there is another business using illegal aliens. The city then would contact that business and ask them to provide their E-Verify documentation on their employees. If they can provide that documentation, then that settles it right there,” says Wilson.
Yolanda Lorge is president of Grupo LatinoAmericano. She’s on the other side of this issue. She says that she’s also against illegal immigration, but she thinks this petition is a scare tactic causing unnecessary friction in the community.
“We are not against E Verify. I mean we knew about E Verify since it started and of course we are not against any verification for job eligibility, just like we are not against I-9. All that is within the frame of the law and is already in place,” Lorge says.
Lorge says that if passed the petition will only create more problems, instead of reducing illegal workers. She says that many small businesses will be negatively affected with the extra hassle, cost and work. Lorge adds that E-Verify is a limited resource and has very little effect on the illegal community.
“What’s going to change is those undocumented workers that were showing some kind of documentation are now going to work for cash, under the table. Then we’re not going to get all of those taxes and so forth. A lot of people are already are working in that way, so E-Verify is not going to touch those,” Lorge says.
The Springfield City Council has two options regarding the fate of the initiative. It can choose to pass the petition as is, or decide to put it on the ballot for voter consideration. The City Council meeting takes place tonight at the Old City Hall building on Booneville in Springfield. The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 6:30p.m. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.