ACLU And U.S. Chamber Support Stripping Basic Pilot Provision From Stimulus Plan

February 11, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and the United States Chamber of Commerce today joined together to urge the conferees of the stimulus legislation to strip a provision that would require businesses to use an experimental and flawed employment verification system to hire workers. Both groups warned that the new mandate would lead to major layoffs and delays in hiring workers.

“The purpose of the stimulus legislation is to reinvigorate business by encouraging expansion and retention of workers,” said Randel K. Johnson, vice president of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits at the U.S. Chamber. “Forcing the Basic Pilot program on businesses that receive stimulus funds would lead to tens of thousands of layoffs. Now is the time to help employers retain workers not hurt them.”

The Basic Pilot provision would require businesses that receive funds from the stimulus legislation to use the experimental system that relies on a flawed government database. The ACLU and the U.S. Chamber support language approved last year in a House vote of 407 to 2 to extend the Basic Pilot in its current voluntary form together with the requirement that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducts two studies. One study would look at the erroneous tentative nonconfirmations under the Basic Pilot program and the other at the program’s effects on small entities.

“It would be prudent to wait for the results of these studies before imposing a mandate on all employers, especially now given the cuts that some businesses are having to make,” Johnson added.

“The objective of the stimulus package is to put Americans back to work, not to keep them from it,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “It makes little sense for the conferees to retain a requirement for entities receiving stimulus funding that is known to cause significant delays in hiring employees. By harming both workers and their employers, this requirement will only further cripple our economy. The federal government needs to fully examine the implications of mandatory employment verification before moving forward with this proposal.”

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