With little discussion, the House on Tuesday approved a bill to require employers that contract with the state to check the work eligibility of their new hires.

HB257, approved in a 55-13 vote, would require companies that contract with the state to use the federal Internet-based E-Verify system to check the work eligibility of new hires. Companies that don't comply would be barred from new or renewed contracts for on year.

Rep. Christopher Herrod, R-Provo, said the system had the potential to reduce employment discrimination based on natural origin because employers would feel more comfortable hiring undocumented workers.

However, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, pointed to information from the Department of Justice that there were 283 discrimination complaints in 2007.

"I do have concerns that employees who are legal resident aliens, those with work visas, and U.S. citizens could be discriminated against," she said.

The bill was amended so that if companies use E-Verify, they can't be held accountable for errors in that system.

It's one of two House bills dealing with E-Verify. The other, HB98, has already passed the House. Both now go to the Senate, where both provisions are included in SB81 which is scheduled for a Thursday vote.

Herrod also pointed to an audit done last fall of the system, which showed 93 percent of checks came back as instant verifications.

Of the remaining 7 percent, "only 1 percent were even contested" which he said was evidence the system is catching identity theft.

"Of the remaining 1 percent, the vast majority of people had become naturalized citizens," Herrod said.

The higher rate of no-matches for naturalized citizens has increased concerns among some about the system's accuracy when it comes to verifying work eligibility. Those who receive mismatches have 10 days to clear up discrepancy.

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