House Cracks Down on Undocumented Workers

Charlotte Eby, Sioux City Journal, April 18, 2008

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, said Democrats wanted to send a message to the federal government and try to deal with a problem Iowans have been concerned about.

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The measure, which cleared the House on an 84-16 vote, requires employers to check driver’s licenses or other state-issued photo identification from Iowa or the surrounding states and verify it within 10 business days of a hire. Employers or their designee must sign a form under penalty of perjury confirming they have examined the ID and “facially validated” the employee.

The measure also would mean aliens who are arrested would be denied bail, and local law enforcement agencies would be required to notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The measure seeks to stop employers from paying employees cash or misclassifying them as independent contractors. Backers say the practice has been used in the construction industry and means employees can’t get unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits.

Employers who misclassify those employees could face misdemeanor criminal penalties.

Failure to follow the law could result in civil penalties and those who make false statements or conceal material facts could be charged with a Class D felony and face a possible five-year prison term.

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Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, voted against the bill. She pointed to what she called a humanitarian crisis and reminded fellow lawmakers of Iowa’s tradition of lending a helping hand to immigrants.

“I wonder what I would do or any of us in this chamber would do if we were not able to feed our children. Would we break the law or would we allow our children to starve?” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

After approval in the House, the measure now moves to the Senate for consideration in the waning days of the session.

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