Monday, February 14, 2011

Conservative Inland Empire cities move to require E-Verify

Gary Winder of Stage Ranch Farm Management says Temecula Valley's wineries will be particularly hard-hit by the city's new E-Verify requirement. He depends on a crew of skilled farm workers to bring in the harvest and process the grapes, and he says locals "just won't do" that kind of work. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / February 14, 2011)

Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee and Norco require businesses to check workers' immigration status in the federal government database E-Verify. Critics say that will push more workers underground.

Out-of-work plumber Pablo Haro scoured the postings at a Murrieta jobs center for openings at local utilities, but he didn't expect any plumbing companies to be hiring.

The recession-ravaged Inland Empire is flooded with laid-off plumbers trying to scratch by, he said. That's why Haro is all for the rash of tough new laws cracking down on the hiring of illegal immigrants in this conservative, suburban valley.

"They're working for almost nothing; it's hard to compete with that," said Haro, who was born in Mexicali but became a U.S. citizen a decade ago. "Construction has crashed, so everyone is scrambling to get any job out there."

Stung by foreclosures and joblessness, politicians in Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee and Norco have been railing against illegal immigrants for taking jobs away from desperate citizens. In December, unemployment ranged from 9.7% in Murietta to 14.2% in Lake Elsinore.

Using a strategy first adopted in Arizona, the cities in January began requiring all businesses to check the legal status of new workers through E-Verify, a free online database run by the federal government that allows employers to determine the immigration status of their workers. Employers that refuse risk having their business licenses revoked.

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