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VOL. 35 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 25, 2011




Arizona-style bill and E-Verify pass subcommittee

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A set of immigration bills that includes an Arizona-style provision allowing local law enforcement agents to question suspects about their immigration status passed a House subcommittee on Wednesday.

Members of the subcommittee on State and Local Government passed the law enforcement-immigration measure without discussion. They saved the majority of their questions for a bill that would require Tennessee's employers to use the federal E-Verify program to prove their employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S.

Representatives of prominent business groups including the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Business urged committee members to oppose the bill.

They said it would cost businesses time and money without solving the problem of illegal immigration.

Dan Haskell, who represents the Tennessee Jobs Coalition and the Tennessee Hospitality Association, said business owners are opposed to the employment of illegal immigrants, but they do not believe the bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, is the solution.

"We are against this because it is a mandate, and it makes it harder to do business in Tennessee," he said.

But committee members accused the business lobby of stalling and attempting to "pass the buck."

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, said business owners brought the mandate down on themselves.

"These folks in the business community keep hiring them. ... And they know they're illegal," he said.

The subcommittee also passed a bill that would require agencies to verify that applicants for public benefits are legally eligible for them. Carr, who chairs the House's Taskforce on Illegal Immigration Reform and is a sponsor of all three bills, told committee members that both the benefits bill and the Arizona-style enforcement bill would be costly to implement in their current form and are unlikely to make it out of the fiscal committee without changes.

"We've got work to do," he said after the meeting. "We've got to find a way to deal with the fiscal note yet not compromise the intent of the two bills."

American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee executive director Hedy Weinberg has said that her group will pursue litigation if the enforcement bill becomes law.

"It invites racial profiling, hinders public safety and betrays core American values of equality and fairness," she said after the bill was introduced last month.

The Arizona bill with similar provisions is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit.

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