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West Valley City adopts resolution encouraging businesses to verify new worker status

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 20 2011 9:12 p.m. MST

WEST VALLEY CITY — While they can't do much to enforce it, the city officially and unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday encouraging local businesses to verify the legal status of new workers.

The resolution authorizes the city manager to modify license applications for all commercial, home, minor home occupation, and temporary businesses within the city, as well as for fireworks sales. The paper forms will now each include a checkbox which would register an independent agreement on behalf of the private employer applicant, to use a status verification system when hiring new employees.

West Valley City Councilman Corey Rushton said the move is "a good, small, but important step" for the city.

During its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the council amended the resolution to include the word, "independently," instead of "voluntary," making it clear that the responsibility to use a verification system lies solely with business owners.

"The city will not be sitting over your shoulder to make sure you register for E-Verify," Rushton said.

E-Verify, a free program operated by the United States Department of Homeland Security, is just one of the available employment verification systems that compares a person's identity with government records, specifically the I-9 form. According to the DHS website, more than 307,000 U.S. employers are enrolled in the program.

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder has said the resolution will help cut down on identity theft issues in the city, as well as maintain fair competition among employers when they set out to hire new workers. The city has about 5,000 businesses.

"It's not going to solve the immigration issue, but it does make doing business fair in West Valley City," said councilman Steve Vincent.

Community activist Tony Yapias was disappointed in the council's decision, saying it sends the wrong kind of message to not only the residents of one of Utah's most diversified cities, but to the entire state.

"The number of immigrants here and in other places is declining because of the bad economy," Yapias said. "Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, cannot find jobs. Things are hard here as it is."

Further regulation of businesses can impede economic development for the city, Salt Lake City immigration attorney Mark Alvarez told the council. He said immigration should be dealt with at the federal level.

"Adding another step to the bureaucratic process to get a business license is unwelcoming," Alvarez said, adding that a check box on the application may become antiquated if ever the federal government enacts new policies on immigration.

Current federal law prohibits the employment of undocumented immigrants.

The state of Utah in 2010 enacted a similar rule, encouraging employers to voluntarily enroll in an employee verification program. More than 1,050 employers have since registered with the state and a public list of those participating is available online, at www.verify.utah.gov.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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