State and local government contractors and subcontractors should be forced to use the federal E-Verify program to ensure that all of their employees are in the country legally, Del. Patrick McDonough testified at a hearing Wednesday.
Baltimore County's McDonough and other Republican delegates are making what has become an annual push for the state to adopt the Internet-based immigration status check program, which civil rights groups have said is "error ridden."
Two previous attempts to require E-Verify have failed in the legislature, and this year's effort is unlikely to be embraced.
With higher than usual levels of unemployment nationally and in Maryland, McDonough said, "we better darned well make sure that these are Maryland residents getting these jobs."
The ACLU of Maryland testified Wednesday against McDonough's bill, saying it is problematic and unfair to certain cultural groups, including Latinos, where people may use multiple last names that are noted differently on naturalization documents.
McDonough dismissed arguments about the system being inaccurate as "phony."
He said 16 million employees have been confirmed for work by the system and that it has a 98 percent accuracy rate. One assessment, however, showed it gave a green light to 54 percent of employees who are not actually allowed to work in in the U.S and had an overall error rate of 4 percent, the ACLU said.
According to a legislative analysis, 13 states require at least some of their agencies to use E-Verify. Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina require all employers -- public and private -- to use it. An executive order then-President George Bush signed in June 2008 encouraging use of E-Verify for all employers with more than $100,000 worth of federal contracts or $3,000 in subcontracts.
President Barack Obama backs E-Verify,and early in his term made its usage a requirement ed 170,000 federal contractors.
But the entire program is slated to end in September 2012.
Counties in Maryland have approached E-verify differently. For example, the Baltimore County Council last year considered requiring its usage among county contractors and subcontractors. Bid documents encourage applicants to use the system.