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The Michigan House of Representatives is expected to take up two immigration bills that passed a committee last week.
The bills require public sector employers to use E-Verify to check a prospective worker’s eligibility to be employed in the United States. Businesses, including subcontractors, that do not abide by the law would not be permitted to do business with government agencies for a year.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Dave Agema, says the measures will stop taxpayer money from going toward salaries for undocumented workers. He says that legal residents of Michigan, which has been one of the worst-hit states in the nation’s ailing economy, cannot afford to lose jobs to people who are unlawfully in the United States.
“They’re highly into the construction business, road crews,” Agema is quoted as saying in published reports. They’re into roofing, dry wall. And they’re taking jobs from Michigan citizens.”
The bill, however, faces stiff opposition.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said that an immigration law such as the one passed last year in Arizona would "encourage a divisive atmosphere."
The governor, a Republican who was elected to his post in November, on several occasions has said the state, whose economy has been among the hardest-hit in the country, needs immigrants.
He told a group of Hispanic business owners that they would help, not hurt, Michigan’s economy.
And earlier this year, in a talk before a Muslim group, Snyder said Census 2010 data showed a steep decline in Michigan’s population, and therefore the state needed to attract immigrants.
For its part, the Michigan Farm Bureau has expressed opposition to the bill. The bureau says it is concerned that such a law would affect Michigan as a similar one reportedly has affected Georgia, which immigrants have left, creating a farm worker shortage.
Critics of the Michigan bill say that even though the proposed measure does not explicitly target the agricultural industry, its passage would create fear among immigrants and lead to an exodus that would worsen Michigan’s economic problems.
This story contains material from the Associated Press.