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Bill would require businesses to participate in E-Verify program

LAWRENCEVILLE -- In an economy where jobs are hard to find, state Rep. Bobby Reese wants to make sure the ones that are available aren't taken by illegal immigrants.

Reese, who is running for Congress, recently filed House Bill 1259, known as The Georgia Employer and Worker Protection Act of 2010. The legislation would require Georgia businesses to participate in the E-Verify program as a condition for obtaining a business license or occupational tax certificate.

"Far too many of Georgia's jobs have gone to people who escaped capture while crossing our borders in violation of American immigration laws," Reese, a Republican from Sugar Hill said. "Statewide use of the proven, effective and successful E-Verify system will stop future jobs from going to illegal labor. In these desperate economic times, while we watch Georgian citizens and legal immigrants struggle with layoffs, it would be irresponsible to ignore this no-cost federal tool."

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows employees to verify the eligibility of a person to work in the United States. It was created by Congress in 1996.

Due to a 2006 law, Gwinnett's government and anyone bidding for contracts, such as road construction projects, must use the system.

People who apply for an occupational tax certificate locally already must sign an affidavit saying they are eligible to work in this country. The new legislation would expand that to use the E-Verify system to check workers's status.

"We all know that you can't tell who is an eligible worker by looking at him, which is the reason for the I-9 form and the E-Verify system. We are trying to protect both businesses and American workers in Georgia," Reese said adding that people are given time to clear up inaccuracies and that no one eligible to work in the country should lose their job.

Exceptions were made to home-based small businesses with less than three employees.

"We must all obey the law and even one American job is too many to lose to someone who is not eligible," Reese said.

Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, one of a handful of Hispanic representatives in the Legislature, declined to comment until he had a chance to read the bill.