To the applause of illegal immigration advocates and unscrupulous business owners, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1236, an act that prohibits California municipalities from requiring businesses within their jurisdiction to use E-Verify. Titled, the "Employment Acceleration Act of 2011," the bill is sure to accelerate illegal hiring practices and make it more difficult for legal residents to acquire jobs. Before the bill was signed, at least 20 municipalities in California required use of E-Verify for either city contractors or all businesses within city limits: Mission Viejo, Palmdale, San Clemente, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Lancaster, Temecula, Escondido, Menifee, Hemet, Wildomar, San Juan Capistrano, Hesperia, Norco, San Bernardino County, Rancho Santa Margarita, Yorba Linda, Placentia, Orange, and Simi Valley. Many more California cities use E-Verify for government employees; such use is not prohibited by the new state bill.
As written, AB 1236 prohibits:
the state, or a city, county, city and county, or special district, from requiring an employer other than one of those government entities to use an electronic employment verification system except when required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds.
The justifications written into the bill are a smorgasbord of rehashed nonsense spread by open-border groups – e.g. overinflated costs, overstated inaccuracy rates. The bill also cites California's unemployment rate (currently over 12 percent) and explains that the state "must pursue all avenues in facilitating and incubating job development and economic growth." How desperate is California if the legislature thinks the only way to reduce unemployment in the Golden State is to promote violations of federal law, perpetuate ID theft, and strain both natural and taxpayer-subsidized resources via increased illegal immigration? If California wanted to reduce unemployment and income inequality it would mandate E-Verify and eliminate other magnets for illegal immigration, thereby driving out the illegal population and forcing businesses to offer a better wage in order to attract millions of unemployed Californians. But putting legal residents to work, improving their wages, and reducing demand for social services apparently makes too much sense.
The bill also suggests that the state legislature did not read the recent Supreme Court holding on E-Verify, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting. The bill states: "it is the intent of the Legislature that the state maintain the intent of federal law by ensuring that private employers retain the ability to choose whether to participate in the electronic verification program." The legislature seems to think that Justice Sotomayor's confused dissent was the majority opinion. In actuality, the majority held that a state requirement that all businesses use E-Verify "is entirely consistent with the federal law." Similarly, the municipalities in California that required use of E-Verify were likely acting in accordance with federal law. While a state has the authority to direct its counties and cities, a state legislature should not mischaracterize federal law in advancing its ends.
It remains unclear whether the Obama administration will file a lawsuit against California for moving against the intent of federal law. If the administration does not file a lawsuit, it will be painfully clear that the White House has no interest in the enforcement of immigration law. It will become clear that the Obama administration's main agenda in suing states over their immigration laws is to perpetuate illegal immigration and undermine U.S. sovereignty.
The media has hardly covered the issue, of course. Open-border journalists seem to prefer keeping anti-enforcement bills that might raise the ire of most taxpayers in the dark; only when a bill supports the rule of law do the activist journalists devote gallons of ink to the matter, nearly all of it in an attempt to discredit the effort.
California cities are just beginning to hear of the change and some officials are troubled by the governor's decision. Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber wrote the following in a letter urging the governor to veto the bill:
We have no evidence of any decline in the number of contractors willing to bid on city projects. All in all, there has been no indication that [Simi Valley's] E-Verify requirement has proved to be a limiting factor in either the public employment or public contracting arena.
This week, the mayor expressed his disappointment with the governor's decision to sign the bill: "It's real disheartening for people out of a job not to be supported by their own government."
Currently 18 states mandate use of E-Verify in at least some circumstances, while two additional states encourage use of the program. California now joins Illinois as one of only two states with legislation banning at least some uses of E-Verify. In contrast, Congress is currently debating a bill that would overcome state-level anti-E-Verify laws by making E-Verify a standard business practice for all hiring in the United States (HR 2164, the "Legal Workforce Act").
UPDATE: The total number of states mandating E-Verify has changed since the posting of this blog. As of July 2012, a total of 16 states require use of E-Verify in some form. A new Center for Immigration Studies report provides an overview of these laws, here.