Hearings Underway on Pennsylvania Immigration Laws

Days after a judge temporarily blocked Alabama’s strict new immigration law, Pennsylvania legislators began public hearings on a similar package of bills.

The package, called National Security Begins at Home, was sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from Butler, who said an estimated 140,000 illegal immigrants cost the state $1.5 billion annually.

Under Metcalfe’s proposed laws, all Pennsylvania employers would be required to use the federal E-Verify database to check workers’ citizenship status. The law would also impose penalties on companies who hire unauthorized workers, and empower police officers to request identification from anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

Opponents of the package, including labor unions, church groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Philadelphia Bar chancellor, said it would put an undue burden on business owners and lead to racial profiling.

Supporters, such as the Tea Party Immigration Coalition and some law enforcement officials, said the laws would improve national security and save taxpayers money.

If passed, these laws would likely face federal scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Justice successfully won a court injunction against a similar omnibus immigration law in Arizona last year, and sued to block Alabama’s tough immigration reforms.