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Proposal to require restaurants to disclose immigration checks rebuffed

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly rebuffed a proposal Tuesday that would have required restaurants to inform customers whether they do immigration background checks on their employees.

Only Supervisor Neil Derry, the measure's sponsor, voted in favor of the plan, which would have color-coded the A, B and C grade cards that restaurants receive during annual health inspections. Restaurants are required to display the cards in their windows.

Three other supervisors voted against the measure and one abstained, officials said.

"I am disappointed that my colleagues ignored the health of the public and endorsed the stealing of American jobs by illegal workers during this devastating recession," Derry said in a statement following the vote. He added that his constituents "consistently query me on the issue of illegal immigration, and I will continue to echo their concerns in county government."

Under the proposal, a green-colored card would indicate the restaurant uses the federal database E-Verify to check whether its employees are eligible to work in the Unites States. A red-colored card would indicate the restaurant does not use it.

[Updated at 9:20 p.m. April 24: Immigration groups and some local businesses were among those who protested Derry’s proposal. They saw it as costly and potentially unlawful.

Sara Sadhwani of the California Immigrant Policy Center said in a statement that the measure would have gone “beyond just an attempt to destroy businesses by marking them with his ‘scarlet letter’ while circumventing the law in California.

"There is another purpose underlying this proposal,” she added. “It is to divide this community by attacking immigrants who live and work here in San Bernardino.”]

Before the vote, Derry explained the proposal as an effort to protect public health. He said in a statement that illegal immigrants have not been subjected to any of the health examinations, testing and vaccination standards that legal immigrants and visitors are required to undergo.

“Public health is jeopardized when we allow restaurants to employ illegal aliens that have not been subjected to the same battery of tests and vaccination requirements we demand of legal immigrants and visitors,” Derry said. “Customers literally place their health in the hands of anonymous individuals and are vulnerable to numerous communicable diseases more commonly found in people born outside this country.”

Derry said the measure is a way to circumvent the “out-of-touch” Legislature that passed a law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, that prohibits the state, cities and counties from mandating that private employers use E-Verify.

Last fall, Derry proposed an ordinance that would require anyone seeking a food service industry job to be screened for their immigration status before a food-handler card could be obtained. He withdrew the proposal over concerns about its legality with the passage of a statewide prohibition.

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-- Rick Rojas and Thomas Curwen

 
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