Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/24/2012 06:12:19 PM PDT

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a proposal to discourage the hiring of illegal immigrants by requiring restaurants to inform customers if they use the federal E-Verify system.

Supervisor Neil Derry proposed amending the county health code to require restaurants to add a green or red overlay to their letter-grading window placards. A green overlay would indicate the restaurant uses the E-Verify system. A red overlay would mean a restaurant does not use the system.

E-Verify is a voluntary Internet-based program that compares data from employment eligibility forms to information on file with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

Derry’s proposal was aimed at circumventing a state law passed last year, AB 1236, which prohibits counties and cities from mandating that businesses screen for illegal immigrants.

Derry said a large number of illegal immigrants work in the food service industry and have not been subjected to the proper health screenings and vaccinations that legal immigrants have.

Citing 2010 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Derry said the tuberculosis rate for immigrants was 11 times greater than among U.S. citizens, and that immigrants were also more likely to carry other infectious diseases such as pertussis, H1N1 and hepatitis.

The proposal triggered outcry from immigrant rights advocates and restaurant owners, who said the measure was discriminatory, would create more government interference and would be damaging to local businesses.

Restaurateur Raymond Moon said he and his wife own several restaurants in the county and follow the letter of the law in filing their employment eligibility forms, but they choose not to use the E-Verify system.

“How one person can take E-Verify and meld it into the food grading system is apples and oranges,” Moon said. “It’s another cost to the county . . . and it’s also a bit discriminatory.”

Sara Sadhwani, strategy director with the California Immigrant Policy Center in Los Angeles, said E-Verify is a terribly flawed system, so much so that both the federal and state government do not make it a mandatory requirement for businesses.

In 2010, the Associated Press reported that the online tool wrongly clears illegal workers about 54 percent of the time. The revelation was made when research company Westat evaluated the E-Verify system for the Homeland Security Department. Westat concluded that E-Verify missed so many illegal workers mainly because it couldn’t detect identity fraud.

Sadhwani said Derry’s proposal would do nothing but create new costs and more red tape for businesses.

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