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State can't rewrite federal worker law
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 9/26/2007 12:17 AM

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The state of Illinois is 100 percent wrong in preventing employers from participating in a voluntary federal government employment verification program until it's 99 percent right.

As it is, the federal government advises participating employers about a worker's legal authority to work in the United States within a day for about 92 percent of cases.

Not perfect, but not bad. But the state insists, under a law approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich last month, that the federal government must be able to complete checks with 99 percent accuracy in three days before employers can use the verification program.

We can't think of anything that is consistently 99 percent right -- unless you are talking about the purity of Ivory Soap. It's hard to see this as anything but thwarting a legitimate attempt by the federal government to prevent employers from unknowingly or unlawfully hiring illegal immigrants.

And unless the state recently got an exemption from honoring the Constitution, it would seem to us that it cannot take actions to define how federal law should be implemented, nor take liberties with the intention of Congress. Indeed, the federal government believes as much in suing the state. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains that the Illinois law "imposes conditions" on employers "that are not required by Congress" and that the state "is attempting to indirectly regulate the U.S. government by imposing state standards on a federal program…"

A federal program, by the way, that is intended to enforce the federal law against the hiring of illegal immigrants. You won't find this in the lawsuit. But you can bet the federal government is angry and frustrated over being accused of not doing enough to stop employers from hiring illegal immigrants, yet when it attempts to do just that, states like Illinois throw up barriers.

Those who support the state law say it is necessary because the federal program, which aims to help employers do the right thing, is unacceptably flawed. For one, some workers have been fired before their legal status was verified. And that is wrong.

Yet the federal government says that shouldn't be happening. The lawsuit states that employers are prohibited "from taking an adverse employment action against a new hire" pending final confirmation of his or her eligibility for employment.

If there are bugs in a system, then the state and the federal government should jointly and cooperatively work them out. Better than confronting each other in court, which the state invited by trying to usurp a federal program that is still highly accurate. Not to mention steeped in the good intention of protecting American workers from having their livelihood undercut by the unlawful employment of illegal immigrants.