WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Tuesday to require employers to use a vast new employment verification system that would allow businesses to distinguish between legal and illegal workers. Employers would be required to enter the Social Security numbers or immigrant identification numbers of all job applicants, including citizens, into the computerized system, which would be created by the Department of Homeland Security. The system would notify businesses within three days whether the applicant was authorized to work in the United States. Those job applicants determined to be illegal would have to be fired. The measure, approved 58-40, is included in a bill that would legalize the vast majority of the nation’s illegal immigrants, which is expected to pass the Senate later this week. The new requirements would result in a broad operational shift for employers who have relied almost entirely on a paper system – the collection of identity documents – to determine the legal status of their workers. The measure is considered a linchpin of the current immigration legislation because it is designed to deter illegal immigration by making it extremely difficult for undocumented immigrants to find work. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsWithout such a provision, senators say, U.S. businesses would remain a powerful magnet for millions of illegal immigrants. The legislation calls for creating documents that would be resistant to counterfeiting for legal immigrants and stiff fines for violations by employers. It requires the verification system to be operational and in use by all businesses within 18 months once Congress appropriates the money for it. “This is probably the single most important thing we can do in terms of reducing the inflow of undocumented workers,” Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said of the measure, which was pushed ahead by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, hailed the measure as an effort “to balance the needs of workers, employers and immigration enforcement.” But some administration officials, employers and other lawmakers raised sharp questions about the amendment, which was developed in consultation with the American Civil Liberties Union. Officials at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the plan, but expressed doubts that homeland security officials could speedily create such a system. “This is a massive undertaking on the part of the federal government,” said Randy Johnson, vice president at the chamber. “Our conversations with the administration have indicated that 18 months is too short.” Officials at the Department of Homeland Security sent e-mail messages to senators saying they had concerns about the system’s “workability and implementation.” The vote in favor of employment verification came as the Senate rejected several amendments intended to help refugees and illegal immigrants affected by the legislation. Critics say the legislation would increase the burdens on asylum seekers, eliminate federal review of deportation orders and leave millions of illegal immigrants in the shadows. Human-rights groups are particularly concerned about a measure that would allow asylum seekers to be deported even while their claims were under review by federal courts. “The impact on asylum seekers would be devastating and potentially irreversible,” said Eleanor Acer, director of the asylum program at Human Rights First, an advocacy group. Lawmakers defeated a measure, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would have legalized all illegal immigrants, regardless of how long they have lived here. They also voted down an amendment to toughen workplace and safety standards and another to help refugees whose resettlement here has been delayed because their indirect support for armed rebels opposed to their repressive governments has put them in technical violation of U.S. antiterrorism laws.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!