A bill that would require that public works contractors verify the legal status of their employees has finally made its way to the desk of Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA), CBS Philly reports.
"This bill ensures that our workers aren't left on the unemployment lines because of workers who aren't permitted to be here in the first place," the bill's author Sen. Kim Ward (R-PA) said during a Senate debate.
If signed by Gov. Corbett, public works contractors will be required by law to use the federal online “E-Verify” system. However, it's important to note that the bill only affects publicly-funded programs. Private projects are exempt.
"The checks are aimed at making sure Social Security numbers haven't been stolen and that workers aren't in the United States illegally," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
"Companies that intentionally hire illegal workers will face a variety of penalties, from a warning on the first offense to being banned from publicly funded projects for up to three years and facing fines of up to $1,000," the report adds.
After six years of crafting, refining, and debating, Senate Bill 637 on Saturday won final approval from the Pennsylvania Senate in a 42-7 vote, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. With the bill's passage, "state Labor and Industry Department will have to check to make sure that all contractors and subcontractors have verified that all their workers and prospective workers were born in the U.S. or are here legally," the report adds.
But even though it passed with a heavy majority, a fistful of state Democrats (mostly from Philadelphia) still oppose the bill because, according them, it unfairly “targets” illegal immigrants.
“I believe the underlying rhetoric that we’ve heard continues a sad chapter in Americana,” said Philadelphia Democrat Michael O’Brien.
Sen. Ward argues that the bill isn't intended to target anyone but employers who take good jobs from U.S. citizens and give them to illegals for substandard pay with no benefits.
"It makes sense that construction projects funded by public tax dollars employ workers who are taxpayers and that legal construction workers who need jobs can get them," she said.
But not all state Democrats are against the bill. In fact, Democrat John Galloway not only defends the measure, he's the bill's prime sponsor. After the bill was endorsed by a House committee, Galloway called it “a good first step” toward putting an end to public contractors "giving illegal immigrants jobs that should go to workers who are entitled to them," The Mercury reports.
“This bill does not target illegal workers. It targets the contractors that use and abuse them for profit,” he said. “It’s about fairness. It’s about jobs."
Here's Rep. Ron Miller (R-PA) explaining the bill:
This story has been updated.