SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- (ABC4 News) – Senator Mitt Romney is calling on Congress to act now on illegal immigration.
He is leading an effort he says is a crucial step and he’s hoping to get it included in the defense bill.
He’s making the move as more and more immigrants are risking everything for a new life in the United States.
The senator says he understands the desire, but they need to line up and do it legally.
He’s calling on his colleagues to do something about it and says a good step is to reduce opportunities for illegal employment.
“If people think they can come, and stay here and get those jobs illegally, that’s what they are going to do,” said Romney, (R) Utah.
That’s why he introduced the Permanent E-Verify Act. It would eliminate the requirement for Congress to continually extend the program.
His ultimate goal is to take it even further.
“Down the road, I’m going to ask that it become mandatory, requiring employers to take this action to avoid receiving a penalty for hiring someone illegal,” said Romney.
E-Verify is a web-based system that tells employers whether prospective employees are legally authorized to work.
Right now, it’s required for all federal government employees and some contractors.
About half of the states require it beyond that, including Utah. Here, employers with more than 15 employees are required to use it.
Local advocates are skeptical of the bill.
“It’s a first step to something we believe needs to include comprehensive immigration reform,” said Maria Montes with Communities United.
Montes says employers are getting around E-Verify by doing business under the table, and employees are using false information.
“We’d like to see an adequate pathway to citizenship for the almost 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Those are folks who have been living here, many of them for many, many years now. They have continuously contributed to the economy,” she said.
Senator Romney says it’s important to get this done and then build on it.
“Our immigration system is a total mess, and I’d like to see it reformed in a whole host of ways,” Romney said.
The senator is introducing an amendment to attach the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate is expected to take that up Wednesday evening.
E-Verify is currently authorized through September 30, 2019.