Rep. Gary Miller

James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/07/2010 06:02:13 AM PST

Make it harder for companies to hire illegal immigrant workers, and those illegal immigrants won’t be able to find work. If they can’t find work, they’ll leave.

That’s partly the thinking behind a bill proposed by Rep. Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar, that would require employers to verify their employees are citizens or otherwise eligible to work in the U.S.

The bill, proposed last year, hasn’t gone anywhere, but Miller plans to push for it and similar legislation with members of a new Congressional group: the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus.

“You’ve got about 15 million people out of work and we’ve got about 8 million illegals working in this country,” Miller said. “If you’re a citizen or you’re here legally, you should have the first opportunity to take that job. It’s very simple.”

Last year, Miller introduced the Loophole Elimination and Verification Enforcement Act – not so subtly called the LEAVE Act – that would, among other things, require employers to verify they are hiring only citizens or immigrants who are allowed to work in the U.S.

He said he wants to force businesses to use E-Verify, a free online program employers can use to check employees’ legal status, and create penalties for employers that break the rules.

“If you’ve proven to repeatedly hire illegals, there should be some consequence for that,” Miller said.

That’s something the business community and immigrant rights groups have traditionally rejected.

Jack Brown, chief executive officer of Stater Bros. – San Bernardino County’s largest employer – said the grocery store chain does not use E-Verify because it has its own verification system and already has “enough federal supervision.”

And the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center, say E-Verify can improperly screen out legal immigrants, especially naturalized citizens born outside of the country.

In a February 2009 report, the NILC reported that about one in 10 foreign-born U.S. citizens are initially flagged as not eligible to work by E-Verify, while the same happens to just one in 1,000 native-born citizens.

Miller said he understands why illegal immigrants come to the U.S.: They know they will be able to find work.

“They’re trying to better themselves,” he said. “Those who are here illegally can and will work cheaper.”

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