During last year’s election, then-candidate Rick Scott pledged to increase immigration enforcement at the state level. He began fulfilling that pledge on his first day as governor, signing an executive order requiring the state to verify that new hires are eligible to work in the United States using E-Verify.

On Monday, during the first of three informational meetings on immigration, state senators — including some who support the use of the program, which is offered to employers by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — expressed frustration with some of the system’s limitations.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, wanted to know why it couldn’t detect some forms of identity theft — one of E-Verify’s key weaknesses. If five people are using the same false name and Social Security number, he pointed out, the federal government could collect revenue on all of them, but would only wind up making Social Security payments to one of them.

Francine Hill of Homeland Security explained that E-Verify could only be used to verify the status of new hires, not existing employees and that a new hire can only be verified after accepting a job offer.

“I think it’s a bogus deal,” responded Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

“I guarantee you: Some clown is going to go down there and file an unemployment claim” after getting fired for failing an E-Verify screening, Hays said, potentially increasing the employer’s unemployment compensation bill as a result. “I’ve had constituents bring me those problems.”

“Tell me what good is the thing, anyhow?” he added. “If I’ve got to hire the man before I can use your system, then your system does no good to tell me whether I should hire him or not. Your system just tells me whether I should fire him or not.”

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