Texas senator files measure to expand E-Verify to state contractors

Senate Bill 254 would require all state contractors and sub-contractors to use the E-verify program, meaning millions of undocumented immigrants couldn't work on state buildings (KXAN Photo)
Senate Bill 254 would require all state contractors and sub-contractors to use the E-verify program, meaning millions of undocumented immigrants couldn't work on state buildings (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, filed a bill Monday to make sure anyone doing business with the state is not hiring workers who came to this country illegally.

Senate Bill 254 would require all state contractors and sub-contractors to use the E-verify program, which checks if someone is allowed to work in the U.S. It will ensure more than 33,000 contracts — totaling $91 billion — are only worked by United States citizens.

“This is leading by example. This is Texas setting the standard from what we expect from businesses in our state,” said Sen. Schwertner.

The Georgetown Republican says the bill would require all contractors and subcontractors working with the state to match their workers’ social security numbers through the free federal program that checks employment status. This would mean the millions of people living here illegally couldn’t work on state buildings, couldn’t work for public school contractors and everything in between.

However, the filed bill does not have any punishment if state agencies contract with companies using workers who came to Texas illegally. Sen. Schwertner says he expects and trusts that companies will follow the law.

“We can build a big wall but we also need to turn down the spigot of the jobs and the benefits that drive people to come to the United States as well,” said Sen. Schwertner.

For years business groups have been against state government telling them who to hire. But the senator says the Texas Association of Business has backed similar proposals in the past.

Undocumented Texans are seeing this as eroding their options. Sheridan Aguirre came to Texas with his mother illegally from Mexico when he was just a baby. Last May, he graduated from the University of Texas and is now part of the work force. E-Verify already puts many jobs out of reach for his parents.

“E-verify does block them from being able to live out their lives. To not only survive but to actually thrive,” said Aguirre.

If the future Trump administration reverses President Obama’s executive actions, E-Verify would put those same jobs out of reach for him.

He calls Sen. Schwertner’s bill a “small piece of a larger picture of anti-immigrant sentiment.” He says he will mobilize with immigrant rights groups such as the University Leadership Initiative to stage rallies and protests against Schwertner’s and other bills they deem “anti-immigrant.”

Last session, lawmakers did pass Sen. Schwertner’s bill requiring all state employees to be checked by E-Verify. This new bill would require tens of thousands of additional people to be checked, putting in law an executive order former Gov. Rick Perry put in place two years ago.

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