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Pennsylvania House Passes Legislation Targeting Illegal Immigrants In Construction Industry

7/9/2012 | Construction Blog, Kaplin Stewart Blog

This being an election year, immigration policy is being debated again in national politics. It is an especially hot topic given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Arizona’s immigration law and President Obama’s announcement that he will no longer prosecute illegal immigrants in certain demographics. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has now become part of the debate.

e-verifyThe Pennsylvania House recently passed H.B. 380, a bill requiring employers in the construction industry to verify the Social Security numbers of their workers on public works projects. More specifically, it requires employers to use one of 2 federal systems (e-Verify or the Social Security System) to make sure all workers are American citizens. It also mandates that the state Department of Labor and Industry ensure employers are meeting this obligation and that it bar contractors who do not from future public work.

foreign-construction-workers-thumb-400x300-12123The legislation, sponsored by Representative John Galloway (D) of Bucks County, is designed to block the use of illegal immigrants on construction work sites. Representative Galloway pointed to the fact that 17 other states passed similar legislation and have found success in lowering both the number of illegals in construction and overall. Galloway estimates that there are at least 35,000 illegal immigrants actively working on construction projects in the Commonwealth.

The bill has met with some opposition. The ACLU opposes it on the grounds that it is based on the federal e-Verify system, with which it takes significant umbrage. The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia also put out a statement conveying its preferred approach to find a way to include “undocumented” workers in the economic system instead of excluding them.

The bill was recently re-committed to the House Rules Committee. There is a strong possibility it will be brought to the House floor for a vote when the legislature returns from its summer recess.