Murthy Working to Improve Immigration Law12 Mar 2012
In the absence of Congressional action to reform our nation’s immigration system, many state legislatures are trying to fill the void with immigration measures of their own. This is true in Maryland as well, where the General Assembly is poised to consider legislation to require participation in E-Verify by any employers that wish to receive state grants or contracts. The measure also would impose substantial fines on any state contractor or subcontractor that knowingly hires an unauthorized worker.
E-Verify is a federal program that allows employers to check the employment eligibility of current and prospective employees. It is designed to prevent undocumented immigrants from working illegally in the United States, and it works by allowing employers to cross-check an employee’s responses on the employment eligibility verification form (Form I-9) against Social Security and Department of Social Security records, using an online system. Under federal law, participation in the program is voluntary for most businesses, but some or all employers in particular states are required to use E-Verify.
As the Secretary/Treasurer of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and a member of its Executive Committee, Sheela Murthy has been helping to educate business leaders on the pros and cons of E-Verify. In fact, in November 2011, Murthy moderated a panel on E-Verify for the State Chamber’s Annual Business Policy Conference, in Cambridge, MD, where representatives of business and the U.S. government analyzed the pros and cons of E-Verify. According to Murthy:
“We all agree that the laws must be followed. That’s not the issue. The concern here is that E-Verify is a very imperfect system, with a trackrecord of errors in its databases. Requiring employers to use such a flawed system is no substitute for fixing our problems at the national level, through comprehensive immigration reform. We need a better solution.”
Sheela Murthy also has been working with key stakeholders in Maryland to support the Maryland DREAM Act, which would provide in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students, provided they meet certain requirements. The bill became law last year, but its implementation has been blocked by a court battle and a possible referendum this November. Murthy believes this is a matter of basic fairness:
“We should not penalize immigrants who were brought here as children, through no fault of their own. If they are smart and hard-working, we should help them to further develop their skills. In this day and age, we can’t afford to waste anyone’s talents.”
As a prominent member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Murthy is a leading advocate for a more balanced, reasonable, and just immigration system, and she will continue to use her voice to improve the law and seek necessary reforms.