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CHICAGO � The U.S. government has sued the state of Illinois over a new state law that the Justice Department says would preclude the use of a federal program that allows employers to verify whether new employees are eligible to work in the United States. The Justice Department said in the suit that the federal program, called the E-Verify system, is designed to reduce the number of illegal immigrants working in the country and to damp the lure of coming to the United States for that purpose. When Congress passed the law creating the program in 1996, it targeted the program at five states with the highest estimated population of illegal aliens, which includes Illinois. The action, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, argues that the specifications of the new Illinois law, enacted this year and slated to take effect next year, will make it illegal for Illinois employers to use the E-Verify system, which 750 employers in the state are using. USA v. State of Illinois, No. 07-3261 (Central Ill.) Nationwide, about 22,205 employers are using the system, the lawsuit says. The state law allows use of the system only when it can notify an employer of a final determination on a tentative non-confirmation of the employee’s legal status within three days in 99 percent of cases, the lawsuit says. Though the state adds the caveat “unless otherwise required by federal law.” The Justice Department in the lawsuit argues that the federal law requires only that the E-Verify system provide a final determination within 10 days after the tentative non-confirmation if the employee challenges an initial response. As a result, the state law imposes conditions on the program not required by Congress and violates the supremacy of federal law, the lawsuit argues. The U.S. Government seeks a permanent injunction of the state law. “The governor reviewed the history of the issue and concurred with the legislature that the system as it is now leaves too much room for mistakes and abuse,” said Abby Ottenhoff, a spokeswoman for Blagojevich.

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