ATLANTA—Many employers have not complied with the E-Verify requirement in the state’s year-old immigration law, according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).
E-Verify is a federal database of people who may legally work in the United States. Opponents have criticized it for being inaccurate and impractical.
Georgia’s H.B. 87, which became law July 1 last year, requires all but the smallest employers to use E-Verify to confirm that new hires, including new hires by subcontractors, have permission to work. It is being phased in by degrees. Starting in January, businesses with 500 or more employers had to start using E-Verify. The law will apply to smaller and smaller businesses over time. The smallest, with less than 10 employees, will be exempt. Governments in Georgia have been required to use E-Verify for years.
Businesses and local governments were confused about when and how to sign up, how to use the system, and how to file reports with the state to document compliance, the AJC reported.
E-Verify is a job killer. It’s not just taking one job. It’s taking jobs upstream and downstream.
—Javier Palomarez of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
For others, such as farmers or skilled tradespeople like plumbers and electricians, using the online system is not practical. Businesses have sprung up to do the checking for them, but their services are costly, according to Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “E-Verify is a job killer. It’s not just taking one job. It’s taking jobs upstream and downstream,” he said in a 2011 press conference about the program.
Employers that do not use E-Verify may lose state loans and grants. Because so many have not filed reports about using the program, the state plans to send a mass mailing to employers reminding them of that risk, according to the AJC.
It is not possible to cross check whether private employers in Georgia have signed up because of the ways federal and state governments keep records, according to the AJC.
Other parts of Georgia’s Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 were on hold, while state officials waited for the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s similar immigration law. The Supreme Court announced its decision on June 25.
The most controversial Arizona and Georgia provision of the two bills requires police to verify the immigration status of people who have been arrested. The Supreme Court allowed that to stand.
Georgia announced that it crafted its law in a way that would be legal and constitutional. A coalition of groups sued to halt the law, but the Department of Justice did not challenge Georgia’s law.
The main purpose of the law, including the E-Verify requirement, is to keep illegal immigrants from taking jobs from legal residents. Georgia has a higher unemployment rate that most states, 8.9 percent, versus 8.2 percent for the nation as a whole. According to a Pew Hispanic Center estimate, about 325,000 illegal immigrants were working in Georgia in 2010.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he felt encouraged by the Supreme Court ruling. “We’ll have to wait to see how the ruling on the Arizona immigration law will affect our state’s enforcement reforms, because Georgia’s law is not identical to Arizona’s. That said, it appears the court has upheld the major thrust of our state’s statute: that states have the right to assist in enforcing federal immigration law,” he said in a June 25 statement.
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