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Survey: Most small businesses support E-Verify immigration checks

April 05, 2013|By Adolfo Flores
  • Temecula restaurant owner Raymond Moon said in 2011 that he did not support an ordinance that would require business owners to electronically check the authenticity of immigrant workers' documents.
Temecula restaurant owner Raymond Moon said in 2011 that he did not support… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

More than half of small businesses are in favor of requiring all employers to comply with some kind of E-Verify system, even though a majority of them don't use it or have never heard of it, according to a national survey.

The National Small Business Assn. interviewed nearly 300 businesses for its 2013 Workforce and Immigration Survey. It found that 17% employ immigrant workers and that 46% depend on workers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

About 18% said they had never heard of E-Verify, and 59% said they had heard of it but don’t use it. E-Verify is a controversial computerized system that screens the immigration status of new employees.

Had the survey given the business owners details about E-Verify, their support for it probably would have gone down, NSBA officials said.

“When confronted with the current reality of the E-Verify system and the fact that many leading proposals would enforce penalties of up to $75,000 and 10 years in prison,” Todd McCracken, NSBA president and CEO, said in a statement, “we would expect a marked drop in this already low level of support for mandating the existing program or massive increases in penalties on all employers.”

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Some 53% of those surveyed said employers who knowingly hire a person who is living in the country without legal permission should face significant fines. While 40% said such employers should get one warning before any penalties are assessed.

About 67% of those surveyed said they would support a new visa category for students in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Almost 60% said they would support national ID cards, and 57% said increased employment visas should be a part of immigration reform.

Small businesses need access to qualified workers, including seasonal, temporary and highly skilled ones, the NSBA said in a statement. It said there is need for a process that isn’t overly burdensome or costly and that has proved low error rates -- and, it said, E-Verify falls short.

“As lawmakers debate immigration reform and other workforce proposals, NSBA is calling on them to give small business the tools to grow and create jobs and avoid unnecessary burdens that will have a stymieing effect on economic growth,” Chairman David Ickert said.

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Follow Adolfo Flores on Twitter.

adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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