E-Verify legislation has made its way through the House with a final vote of 68 – 43. HB 36, Employers/Gov. Contracts Must Use E-Verify, would require businesses with government contracts to ensure their employees and contractors are legal U.S. citizens or residents. Businesses with 25 or more employees would also come under the purview of the legislation. Employers with less than 25 employees and those with seasonal workers would be exempt from the bill.
E-Verify is a federal Internet-based system that allows employers, using an employee’s Form I-9 information, to determine the legal immigration status of potential and current employees. It essentially matches social security information to a legal name. There is no charge to employers to use E-Verify. The system is operated by the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the Social Security Administration. Currently, more than 238,000 employers nationwide are enrolled in the program with the number of registered employers growing by roughly 1,400 per week. E-Verify is mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts.
At the state level, as of January 1, 2007, all North Carolina state agencies, offices and public universities are required to use E-Verify. North Carolina is not alone in proposing E-Verify legislation. Roughly half of U.S. states require some form of immigration employment verification. As found in the chart below, five states require that all employers use E-Verify while others only require state employees or employers with state contracts, like North Carolina’s legislation, to use the system.
While no system is perfect, several NC legislators, including the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Cleveland (R-Onslow), Rep. Warren (R-Rowan), and Rep. Folwell (R-Forsyth), have argued that E-Verify would begin to address the growing illegal immigration issue in our state. Consequently, some employers have expressed that verifying immigration status for each employee would lead to additional burdens on already constrained businesses. However, immigrants that come here illegally are just that, illegal. It is important to follow the law so that citizens and law enforcement know who is in our country and for what purpose.
In addition, it is not fair to the hardworking legal immigrants who came to this country the right way. Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) aptly summed up the need for law and order: “If we don’t follow the law, what value is the law? Do we get to pick and choose?”
HB 36 comes after the recent U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld an Arizona law penalizing businesses hiring illegal immigrants and requiring the use of E-Verify. While this legislation is certainly not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. The bill must now go to the Senate where it must be voted on and if approved, sent to the Governor for her signature or veto.
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