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McGee’s anti-illegal immigration proposal moves forward

McGee’s anti-illegal immigration proposal moves forward

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 12, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
Author Image
March 12, 2010

A proposal to increase penalties for providing or using fraudulent identification to get a job moved out of a Senate committee Friday but could see some changes in the future. Members of the Idaho Latino community and officials from some advocacy organizations objected to the legislation.

The legislation from Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, would add prison sentences of up to 14 years for creating false IDs used for gaining employment. McGee said the legislation would deal with people who employ illegal immigrants or help them get jobs. "It sends a message that if you're going to falsify the documents, we're going to make it more difficult for you," he said. McGee added that the legal change could help Idahoans who are out of work.  “If people are not here legally, and they're using false documentation to gain employment, then they’re precluding Idahoans who are here legally from getting those jobs.”

The legislation would create three new criminal offenses. The stiffest would be a felony for falsifying public records for employment with punishment of up to $250,000 and 14 years in prison. It would also create two smaller misdemeanors. A person using false documents to get a job could receive penalties of up to $5,000 and two years in jail. Employers paying people using false documents could receive penalties of up to $50,000 and two years in jail.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Friday to put the legislation on the amendment calendar, which could lead to changes in the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he wants to consider adding a safe harbor protecting business owners from the misdemeanor if they use the E-Verify system to check the employment status of workers. “We do have a lot of employers who are using E-Verify voluntarily,” he said. Davis also wants an opinion from the Idaho attorney general on the constitutionality of the new offenses in the legislation. The state has other laws dealing with fraud, and the federal government manages immigration policy.

“I have no problem with those suggestions,” McGee told IdahoReporter.com. He said he would consider changes to the legislation. “I don’t think any piece of legislation is perfect.”

Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, was the only member of the committee to oppose sending the proposal forward. She said the new offenses would add confusion to state law. “The provisions of this bill add to our code an additional chapter where we already have provisions in place that address these issues,” she said. “In some cases, the provisions that are being added here are more lenient than the provisions that are in place in existing code.”

Brent Olmstead with the Idaho Coalition of Businesses for Immigration Reform said his group helped write the legislation. He said it was something that Idaho businesses could live with, but that they would like to see federal changes to immigration law. Olmstead said the bill targets people who help bring illegal immigrants into the U.S. “We hate the idea that people prey on the disadvantaged,” he said. “The intent we had here was not to cause any hardship to our friends in the Latino community, but to look at the people who take advantage of them.” Olmstead also said the group of employers he represents opposes the E-Verify system.

Several Latino Idahoans testified during the committee meeting that they felt targeted by the proposed law. “This bill, in itself, I feel is anti-Latino,” said Felipe Moran of Boise. “This bill does nothing other than attack the Latino community.”

“The bill is shortsighted, creates redundancy, and does nothing to address the issue of immigration,” said Leo Morales, an immigrant rights organizer for the Idaho Community Action Network. “It is a miscalculated political move. It falls short of being a prudent and necessary law.”

Taryn Magrini, policy director for the Idaho Women’s Network, said clamping down on illegal immigrant workers would hurt Idaho families as well as the state economy. “At the state level, legislation like this can cause unintended and drastic consequences,” she said, adding that she wants to see federal changes to immigration. “Comprehensive immigration reform is needed at the national level.”

McGee’s legislation heads to the amending order of the Senate calendar. Two other anti-illegal immigration proposals, from Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden, and Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, were killed in committee. Read IdahoReporter.com's coverage of Jorgenson's proposal, which would have punished employers and expanded use of E-Verify here, and Hart's plan to create a "three strikes" system for employers here. The text of McGee’s legislation is available here.

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