Washington State officials have announced that they will screen potential farm hands for immigration violations before matching them to jobs. During the screening process, they will not use the federal verification system, making the matter more of a gesture than actual action.

The state's referral process ties into the federal H-2A guest-worker program that allows farmers to recurit foreign labor if there is a shortage. The program ensures that there is indeed a worker shortage before allowing farmers to look elsewhere.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor notified states that they needed to ensure workers' documents were legit before referring them to jobs. Workers needed to complete a federal I-9 or use the government's E-Verify system. But several states, including Washington, have resisted citing budget and legal concerns.

Beginning in 2009, the state will record the referred worker's I-9s, but most of the burden is still being put on the farmers who need to ensure they are hiring legal workers. Sheryl Hutchinson, who is the spokeswoman for the state Employment Security Department said the Department of Labor has approved the plan.

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Illegal Immigration

Updated: Thu, May 14th 2009 @ 10:49am EDT