Councilor Schmitt wants to 'E-Verify' all new Town Hall hires

Councilor Schmitt wants to 'E-Verify' all new Town Hall hires

Council president Higgins is skeptical

CUMBERLAND - Debate was lively, but the issue unresolved last Wednesday when the Town Council considered adding E-Verify to the list of background checks required for new Town Hall employees.

The ordinance comes from Councilor Scott Schmitt, who said the federal database check is a fast way to screen for those in the United States illegally and therefore not eligible to work.

It enjoyed its most passionate support from the council's only immigrant, Manuel DaCosta.

"I do believe we are a land of laws. In order to work, you must be legal. I will be in favor of this," he said.

Most vocally opposed was Council President James Higgins.

"I think it creates a humongous burden on the employer," he said, adding it represents an added layer of bureaucracy that "exposes potential workers' personal information into this data base that's accessible by Homeland Security."

He also called it "an affront to personal freedom to all citizens of the United States."

Meanwhile, Mayor Daniel McKee is threatening to not sign the legislation if it's passed.

Said McKee, "It certainly is a targeted piece of legislation and it creates a suspicion in a community that certain individuals may very well, by how they look, may be illegal immigrants.

"I'm not sure I'd sign this piece of legislation if it's passed. I certainly would do more research on the issue."

Debate last week suggested the final vote when it comes, perhaps as soon as March 19, could go either way.

Schmitt's legislation is in the form of an ordinance that would need a two-thirds vote to override a mayoral veto. McKee could also let it take effect without his signature.

Bill Perry of Cumberland, a leader with the Cumberland Tea Party, supplied many of the details about the E-Verify system, although Higgins repeatedly disputed his facts.

Perry told the council, "We have a 9.3 percent unemployment rate and 15.5 percent under employed or run out of benefits and no longer counted.

"I think we need to do everything we can to get those people employed and I don't see any reason why we should be allowing any of those jobs should be going to anyone who is in this country illegally.

"Why wouldn't we want to verify that they are work authorized?"

Perry said an E-Verify check is mandatory for federal government employment, including people under contract to federal government.

He said more than 200 Cumberland businesses are using it.

Schmitt clarified that his resolution is intended only for new employees of Town Hall - not subcontractors such as plow operators and not the School Department. He described the cost as "negligible," and said he uses it himself as an employer.

"Log in to log out is two minutes," he told councilors.

It was noted the town generally hires only about three new employees a year.

Driven by Higgins' repeated questions, much of the night's debate centered on the ramifications for the town of a false result and what legal recourses are given to those who turn up as illegal but say they're not.

Schmitt said there's an appeal process, but couldn't describe the effect on the would-be employer.

Perry said that 1 out of 10,000 are found to be in error, but Higgins said some studies show it to be much higher.

Related to that was a wording problem in the resolution because it says prospective employees, while E-Verify can be used only after the offer of employment is made and accepted.

In fact, it was that issue that eventually led councilors to send it back to committee for a rewrite.

Several comments were made about Cumberland being the first Rhode Island community to adopt it, with some questioning why others weren't using it.

However, Perry later sent a memo to the Town Council that shows Cumberland is one of the few towns not utilizing it. The list, from a Homeland Security website, shows 22 Rhode Island towns and cities, as well as many fire districts, school departments and other government agencies. Three of four Cumberland fire districts are using it.

The night's conversation also veered into a debate over language.

Higgins took strong exception to the term "illegal alien."

He called the term "weird," saying, "they're not from outer space."

"Aliens are from Mars," he said.

He preferred the term "undocumented," he said, but Perry countered, "Most in this country who are here illegally are not undocumented.

"I can go to Central Falls right now and get documents that say I'm you," he told Higgins.

In that case, said Higgins, an E-Verify check would come back clean.

Conceded Perry, "It's not fool-proof."

Councilor Jeff Kearns had abstained during subcommittee debate and told councilors at the full meeting, "I truly believe if you're illegal you shouldn't get a job in America.

"Based on principle, it's the right thing to do."

But he added, "We're not required by law to do this."

And he noted he hasn't had any feedback from residents asking for it. "It's never been an issue."

DaCosta commented, "I understand it's a sensitive issue. As an immigrant myself, I know better. To me it's very simple, it's just following the law of the land."

Replied Kearns, "I think its intent is good, I believe in its intent. I don't know if it's effective.

McKee, who grew up in Cumberland, suggested, "I'm not sure it's a very positive thing for the community.

He recalled discrimination against the Portuguese community to the point of "red-lining" parts of town.

He went on, "I don't know where this ends. Do you start going door to door and verifying residents before they can move into town? I'm not there."


If someone has nothing to hide why should this bother them. The key word in all of this is legal. Time for change in November!

Thank you for showing the proper respect to our country's laws! Yes, we are a "land of laws", and without them, our way of life ceases to exist. Mayor McKee, Mr. Higgins, and ANYONE else who does not see the importance of verifying an applicants legal status is a TRAITOR as far as I am concerned. All those citizens who have immigrated to the US legally and satisfied all of the requirements to gain their citizenship should be OUTRAGED that ILLEGAL aliens are circumventing the system. WHY DO WE HAVE LAWS ANYWAYS if they are not going to be followed?? Thank you Mr. DaCosta for embracing the American system and having respect for the laws of America. It's becoming all too popular for so many public servants to pander to this growing group, while ignoring the tax paying LEGAL citizens. LAWS should not be arbitrary, with enforcement based on who will support your next re-election campaign.

I support this legislation, you must be legal to work here, why is this a problem for people to understand. With high unemployment, jobs should go to people who are here legally, who pay taxes, and do what they are legally supposed to do. As for Mayor McKee, another reason not to support him in his quest for Lt. Governor.

It is a federal felony to be in the U.S. illegally. It’s another felony to work in the U.S. if you are here illegally. To knowingly hire someone that is here illegally is a crime punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both. To aid, abet, or harbor an illegal alien is a felony.

ALL federal workers must be E-Verified. Most contractors doing business with the feds must e-verify their workers. We must insist our government obeys and/or enforces our laws. Elected officials were elected BY citizens to REPRESENT citizens.

Taxpayers should DEMAND that government make every reasonable effort to ensure that tax dollars do NOT go to individuals in our country illegally! Unemployed legal workers should DEMAND that government make every reasonable effort to ensure that only those legally authorized to work here are allowed to do so. Anything less on governments’ part could (and I believe should) be interpreted as aiding and abetting illegal aliens.

Support E-Verify!!!

The town council seems to be expending its energy on rather useless pursuits. Between this and Lambi's chimeric pursuit for higher mayoral pay, one wonders if they've jumped the shark; it seems that there're actual things to work on that affect actual people that live in Cumberland.

If Schmitt is so worried about "aliens" brandishing pitchforks with their unquenchable thirst to undermine the very fabric of democracy by getting on the town payroll, then maybe he should go after restaurants and the construction industry who are notorious for hiring "aliens" (with all those extra arms they put up framing in the blink of an eye and they make the soup du jour taste phenomenal with their space laser guns). Or better yet, he should first see if this problem actually exists in Town Hall before wasting everyone's time. If the town council feels adrift or bored or whimsical or like it's having a bad hair day, then maybe they should talk to residents about real problems that can be addressed instead of making empty statements about higher pay/better mayoral performance (and the evidence for this is where…?) and about a bevy of "aliens" taking up residence in Town Hall eating the charter like so many mice. Surely if we stop zero people with this law (which is what it will do) then we can really put a dent in that unemployment rate, right Bill Perry?

Isn't nepotism the problem with town hiring? Isn't deadweight the problem with current employees? If you want a town hall that's efficient, legal, moral, and responsive, then e-verify helps you not at all. Now let's get to the real problems Lambi and Schmitt: I think I saw a herd of unicorns that needs culling.

Gotlogic - Illegal immigration is a huge problem in this Country and State. Your belittling those with the courage and sense to address the problem, or trying to trivialize it, only adds to the problem. You are right that, "if we stop zero people with this law" it doesn't help. How about if it helps a family member of yours get a job? Does that make a difference?

Great points delivered with a enough of humor to shine the light on some of the humorous issues being tackled.
Spend more time finding money to --- clean the darn streets
----support the schools
----support the youth
----support the elderly
----pay the councilman more, oh sorry slipped.

You get the point....wish some of the councilors did..they live in their never never land...of "I think it therefore it's right" attitude. Dam with what everyone else thinks.

I'm not sure why any town legislation would be necessary to follow federal legislation. E-Verify is required for any use of federal funds. Why would Cumberland risk the liability in not doing this? Here's the requirements:

*E-Verify is a voluntary program for most employers, but mandatory for some, such as employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause and employers in certain states that have legislation that mandates the use of E-Verify for some or all employers.
* Additional Rhode Island State status On March 27, 2008, Governor Donald Carcieri signed Executive Order 08-01, requiring:
• The Rhode Island Department of Administration must use E-Verify for all new hires of the Executive Branch and,
• The Department of Administration shall require all persons and businesses, including grantees, contractors, sub-contractors and vendors doing business with the state of Rhode Island to register and use E-Verify.
* On January 5, 2011, Governor Lincoln Chafee rescinded Executive Order 08-01. It is no longer in effect. Therefore only federal legislation is in effect in the State of RI

I don't see the justification to bring E-VERIFY to Cumberland. The town's HR Department is responsible for the hiring process for towns job openings. To use for approximately three new employees per year is not worth any costs.

dsingleton - The justification is that the town would show that its elected officials are willing to enforce the law. It seems rather ludicrous to me that we need to petition our "leaders" to obey and enforce the law. Counter to your argument - I see no justification for Not using E-verify. It's no secret that thousands of RI jobs are being held by illegal aliens. Taxpayers dollars going to individuals in our country illegally? Justify that!

I appreciate that Counsilor Schmitt has extra time to work on solutions for problems that don't exist. We have plenty of issues to work on and lots of problems that don't have solutions. Perhaps we can spend limited resources and counsilor time on real problems; based on the joint school committee and TC meeting, counsilors could use their time learning about state requirements for funding education. That would be a worthy debate versus worring about the 3 people hired each year and whether the Town's HR dept can properly validate an I-9 form without having to use a federal database.

Workplace eligibility is mandated by law and reality. Yes, obeying the law can be a nuisance, but it does make for a better society. P.S. Councilors need only accept the proposal. An HR person would do the work. 3 employees a year? 6 minutes a year. Hardly a huge burden to follow the law more effectively.