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Sen. Franken on Immigration Bill: "Very Good Start, but We've Got Work To Do'

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Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said the Senate's bipartisan proposal to tackle immigration reform will help fix our current broken system, which continues to be a drag on Minnesota and the country's economy.

The Senate's proposal includes provisions Sen. Franken has been calling for to help Minnesota farmers and to protect children. The senator said he still sees room for improvement in the bill, specifically when it comes to making sure it best serves small businesses. The system would require all businesses to electronically verify the ability of a new hire to work legally, but it has been plagued with high error rates and has a record of incorrectly rejecting authorized American workers.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Franken will play a key role in shaping the immigration reform bill before it comes before the full Senate for approval.

"There's no question that our immigration system is broken and badly in need of reform, and it's a drag on our economy," said Sen. Franken. "I've long called for immigration reform to help our ag industry get the workforce they need. I've also been calling for protections for children. I'm very pleased that my calls were heard in the bipartisan bill my colleagues introduced. But I'll still be working to improve the bill, especially the provisions that will force small businesses to enroll in an electronic verification system that I'm worried may not be ready for prime time."

For years, Sen. Franken has called for improvements to ensure that Minnesota's agricultural industry has the workforce it needs, specifically in the dairy industry. The bill introduced in the Senate today by the "Gang of 8' includes a new provision that will allow dairy farmers to access an agricultural guest worker program that will help them hire workers for jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.

Sen. Franken is looking for ways to improve the provision that requires businesses to use the "E-Verify" system-which electronically identifies legal American workers-in order to prevent it from negatively impacting legal workers and small businesses that do not have the resources to deal with the errors.

On the E-Verify mandate, Sen. Franken added, "The last independent audit of E-Verify said it rejected legal American workers once every 140 times. If your car had that kind of error rate, it would break down at least four times a year. That kind of error rate won't work for businesses and it definitely won't work for small businesses."

Sen. Franken is also one of the leading voices in the Senate pushing to make sure that children who arrive alone in the U.S. have adequate legal representation. He believes that this bill will dramatically cut down on the number of kids who are forced to go to court without representation.

The immigration reform bill also includes provisions Sen. Franken supports that facilitate high-skilled immigration to help Minnesota businesses retain the high-skilled workers they need to compete globally and to strengthen Minnesota's economy.

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