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In the States

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As Congress remains mired in partisan bickering and presidential election-year politics, chances appear remote for any progress on the immigration reform front in Washington during the 112th Congress. However, if 2011 was any indication, the topic will remain front and center again in many state legislatures next year.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), of which SHRM is a Foundation member, 1,607 immigration-related bills were introduced in state capitals across the country in 2011. Reforms, similar to the one enacted in Arizona in 2010 (portions of which are now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court), were signed into law in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah this year. These laws, much like their predecessor in Arizona, are now subject to legal challenges in various courts that have delayed the implementation of certain controversial provisions.

One area of these laws is a provision by states to mandate the use of the federal government’s E-Verify system by employers for verifying the work eligibility of new (and some current) employees. While considered a voluntary system for most employers under federal law (with the exception being most government contractors), more and more states are enacting immigration bills mandating all or certain employers (such as those contracting with the state) to use E-Verify along with the current Form I-9 in validating the employment status of their employees.

During the debate over these and other bills in the states, SHRM state councils have advocated that requiring employers to use E-Verify — in its current configuration — results in double-work for HR practitioners, as employers are still required to comply with the Form I-9 federal requirement for new hires.

SHRM strongly supports legislation (H.R. 2855 sponsored by Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas) recently approved by the House Judiciary that would pre-empt these state laws and eliminate the paper-based I-9 with an enhanced E-Verify system; one that is totally electronic and that provides employers with certainty that any employees they are hiring are in fact who they say they are.

Until Congress takes up this bill or some other form of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, HR will continue to share its views with state legislators on how E-Verify, in its current configuration, still remains prone to identity theft.

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