Starting Friday, businesses in Lancaster will be required to verify that new hires are eligible to work in the United States.
Businesses will have to use the federal E-verify system before putting new workers on the payroll, Mayor R. Rex Parris said.
"It is absolutely essential that our local businesses comply with the law when choosing who to employ," Parris said. "Difficult economic times have made jobs scarce, and 17 percent of Antelope Valley residents are currently struggling with unemployment. We are working to ensure that all available jobs in our city go to hard-working, law-abiding citizens."
The E-verify system is a free and simple Internet-based system which verifies workers through the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. The department estimates that more than 175,000 employers use the system.
Parris told KPCC's Patt Morrison Tuesday that the program will not apply to people who are already employed.
"You have a huge problem where half the family could be undocumented and the other half being citizens," Parris told KPCC. "Let's be realistic. Nobody should even think about saying that that family should have to move or be separated in any way."
Parris said he has directed city staff to focus on jobs usually occupied by young people who are just entering the workforce. He mentioned fast-food chain McDonald's.
"That's who I want to target first is McDonald's," Parris said. "That has the biggest ripple effect. What we've seen is that those jobs used to go to young people who would learn how to work, to enter the labor force, how to develop job skills. Those jobs aren't available anymore, and I think it has a ripple effect on the number of gangs we have, the criminal problem, the drop-out problem. I've asked city staff to focus directly on those jobs."
E-Verify is mandated by the state of Arizona. It's also required for companies that contract with the federal government.
In California, there are at least 11,000 companies enrolled in the program, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The LA Board of Supervisors is considering whether to require contractors to use E-verify.
Lancaster businesses that fail to comply face having their business license revoked.
The system received more than 8.5 million queries in fiscal 2009.