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Business and the Economy

Both Sides See a Loophole in the E-Verify Ballot Language

Monday night’s City Council meeting in Springfield brought a large crowd of both supporters and opponents of a measure that deals with E-Verify. If passed by voters, this measure will require all Springfield employers to check the immigration status of workers by using the federal E-Verify system. After both sides thoroughly debated the written proposal, Council made amendments to the language that will represent the issue on ballot in February. Both sides, however, still aren’t happy with the wording. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.


Both opponents and supporters of the E-Verify requirement say they see a loophole in the wording of the ballot measure.

On the one side…you have a group called United for Springfield, which opposes the ordinance as a whole. Clark Brown is the group’s spokesperson. He talks about one part of the ballot language that he says is misleading in the Springfield ordinance.  

“I think the City Council, and what they’re going to decide and what they will be voting on two weeks from now in ballot summary language, really has a loophole of this mandate for employers E-verifying their employees will include all of current employees.”

Bob Stevens, Mayor Pro-Tem for Springfield, says that the actual wording states that if the ordinance passes, all businesses within the city will be required to participate in E-verify to – quote -- “verify the eligibility of all workers.” – end quote.

Because of that specific wording in the Springfield ordinance, an employer could potentially read the ordinance and think that if it passes, they must screen not only new employees coming onto their workforce, but also their current employees. According to Jerry Wilson, a supporter of the proposal, that rule is not in the federal guidelines this ordinance is based on.  

Wilson is the communication director for the Ozark Minutemen, the group that initially wrote the petition and got the ordinance certified for the city back in August. He says this mistake in the language is frustrating because it makes the ordinance seem unfair to employees who already have a job. Wilson said that his group did try to get the language changed in Monday’s meeting.

“We asked them (City Council) also to insert the word ‘new’ in front of ‘all workers,’ and they declined to do that.”

Stevens says the reason the council couldn’t change the wording in the ordinance is because the ordinance was brought together, signed and certified in petition form in August. City charter states that the council cannot change the words of a petition until a vote is made on the existing wording. Therefore, the language on the ballot in February must reflect what is said in the ordinance now, mistakes included.

Again, Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Stevens.

“Because we can’t put all four pages of the petition on the ballot, we have to boil it down. That’s where that phrase, ‘verify the eligibility of all workers’ because they said in their heading ‘continue to employ.’ That includes people working now.”

However, Wilson and other supporters say that voters should be aware that this verification process is, in his words, the most “non-racial method of ensuring that employees are fairly hired.”  Wilson says he thinks that if the proposal passes, eventually this mistake will be taken out of the ordinance.

The City Council plans to meet again two weeks from now for a vote on the ballot summary language.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.