PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Job seekers would be forced to pass a federal background check confirming that they are legal U.S. citizens before accepting a job in Rhode Island under legislation introduced by state Rep. Doreen Costa.
The bill, which is cosponsored by Rep. Peter Palumbo, D-Cranston, would restore the E-Verify program that allows employers to check an applicant's citizenship status online. The program was put in place through executive order by former Governor Don Carcieri and then rescinded by Governor Lincoln Chafee in 2011.
"The great part is that it won't cost anyone anything [to implement]," Costa, R-North Kingstown, said. "This could possibly help people find jobs."
Twenty states already require at least some employers to follow E-Verify, but no New England states have a law on the books. Minnesota is the only other state that has rescinded its E-Verify program. Costa's bill would require all non-governmental employers with at least three employees to participate in E-Verify.
But critics have challenged that the program is ineffective and divisive. Upon repealing E-Verify the day after his inauguration, Chafee said the program had "ostracized our Latino communities."
"We are one of only a handful of states using this system, and it has done more harm than good," Chafee said at the time. "I pledged in my campaign to unite our state and bring Rhode Islanders together, and that's what I'll do as governor. Repealing E-verify is an important first step."
Costa said more than 20 of her colleagues have signed on to the legislation, but she acknowledged she likely faces an uphill battle. She said she would support a slower implantation of the program if she thought a bill had a better chance of passing.
"You have to start somewhere," Costa said. "Miracles can happen.