North Idaho Sen. Mike Jorgenson, who wants state employers to check worker immigration status, said Saturday high unemployment and state budget woes may finally overcome farm and business opposition to such a requirement.
Jorgenson-authored immigration legislation has failed to get a hearing the last two sessions. But with more than 66,000 in Idaho jobless, and a $50 million budget gap, a hearing would unleash popular support for measures that discourage the hiring of illegal immigrants, he said.
“We can’t afford to take care of ourselves,” Jorgenson told a receptive audience of about 60 gathered for one of 53 Tea Parties Against Amnesty & Illegal Immigration held around the United States, including others in Boise and Idaho Falls.
Organizer Anita Steiner said Americans overwhelmingly oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, but “the open-borders crowd” wants access to workers who will accept lower pay than U.S. citizens.
“It’s all about cheap labor,” she said. “Americans are fed up.”
Jorgenson, who on Saturday had to steer crowd comments away from gun control, health care legislation and the legality of the federal income tax, said illegal immigrants each year cost the state of Idaho $200 million, and the state of Washington $800 million, for health care, education, and other services.
Jorgenson’s bill would require Idaho employers to use the national E-Verify system that checks worker immigration status, and revoke their business licenses if they do not.
Alternative measures supported by agricultural interests are “toothless,” he said.