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Utah could become the first state to require businesses to use the federal E-Verify program to check workers' immigration status, under threat of criminal prosecution.
The proposed bill would require that employees are legally able to work in the United States or employers could face criminal charges.
According to the Associated Press, lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 251, which imposes criminal penalties for business owners who do not verify their workers' immigration status. Employers who fail to comply could face a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
So far, 14 other states required governmental entities to use the federal E-Verify program, a free Web-based system that checks worker information against data bases but only under threat of financial penalties.
To date, about 184,000 of the nation's 7 million to 8 million employers use E-Verify.
In Mississippi, which also uses the program employers who hire illegal immigrants can lose their business license and illegal immigrants found working there are eligible for a one-year prison sentence.
But the E-Verify system has some widely reported flaws.
Lawmakers in Illinois recently moved to bar employers from using the system, saying its accuracy remains in question.
In Oklahoma a federal judge recently blocked portions of an immigration law saying it unfairly imposes penalties.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah says the proposed bill clashes with the federal law and will most likely face legally challenges if passed.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Chris Buttars and says the bill will create jobs by forcing undocumented workers elsewhere.
The accuracy of the E-Verify system remains in question as it is only able to identify illegal workers less than half the time.
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