Three Catholic bishops based in Iowa are lobbying legislators today, urging a “no” vote on a bill designed to crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

All businesses would be required to use the E-Verify system to check whether employees are in the country legally. Davenport Bishop Martin Amos points to the part of the proposal which requires law enforcement to investigate public complaints about alleged illegal immigrant labor.

“Any time there’s a complaint, you have to investigate it,”Amos said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “That could be an incredible burden on law enforcement and I’m not sure that in the long term it would do that much good.”

Amos said Catholics realize there are people who are here illegally.”But there’s also so many really good people who get caught up into something like that who are completely innocent of everything, plus just the whole community running scared over something like that,” Amos said. “I just don’t think that’s the way to go. I think there are other things we could do.”

Sioux City Bishop R. Walker Nickless said the proposal complicates the hiring process.

“It’s going to scare people and people are going to be very worried about what’s going to happen and I don’t think it’s something we want to get into,” Nickless said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “It just is not a good idea.”

The bishops met with legislators at a statehouse reception early this morning. Nickless said the bishops are thankful for past support of a program which gives Iowans a tax credit for contributing to scholarships for students who attend K-12 Catholic schools.

“We’re so grateful for the student tuition organizations and for all the help,” Nickless said. “We would like a little more with transportation.”

Catholic schools have been pressing for the same busing subsidy as Iowa’s public schools receive. And the bishops have a concern about the education reform ideas legislators are considering. Bishop Amos, from the Davenport Diocese, said forcing private Catholic schools to hire teachers who have graduated with at least a 3.0 grade average in college may screen out good candidates for the classroom.

“I hope that as a religious institution we could be exempt from that,” Amos said, “that we could use the pool, but sometimes for our hires we may want to look at some other things or people in that pool would be wasting their time because they really wouldn’t want to work in a Catholic school.”

 The bishop said some people who have a top-notch grade point average in college just don’t have the skills to lead a classroom of kids.

The top Catholic official in Iowa was unable to be at the statehouse today. The archbishop was driving to Des Moines last night when he was in a traffic accident near Dows. Dubuque Archbishop Jerome Hanus was injured, but not seriously.

There are four Catholic dioceses in Iowa, based in Dubuque, Davenport, Des Moines and Sioux City. According to the Iowa Catholic Conference, there are nearly half a million Catholics in Iowa.