With HB 87 effective on July 1st, Georgia is the latest state to copycat Arizona-style immigration laws that require police officers to check detainee’s immigration status and to punish businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers.
Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah and Georgia have new immigration laws that require every business owner to use E-Verify, a federal, internet based system created to determine if each employee has authorization to work in the United States. This program is also compulsory in 25 cities which require only public contractors to verify work eligibility.
Although E-Verify is a free tool provided by the federal government, “it is costly,” explains immigration attorney Kevin Lashus from Austin. Human Resources personnel need to be trained and to respond when the system provides notifications while employees need to prove they are eligible to work.
Because of this administrative hassle, “it is a business decision,” says Lashus.
|“There are advantages of using E-verify,” says immigration attorney Karen Weinstock and author of Georgia’s Immigration Blog “Employers can be close to 100 percent sure that they hired legal workers and in case of an ICE investigation or audit, they have a good safe exemption that they used everything available to make sure their employees are authorized to work.”
But there are also disadvantages. Apart from the administrative hassle, its inaccuracy (believed to be 1% error rate) could lead to discrimination when businesses reject people authorized to work based on false information.
While the largest raid of undocumented workers happened in Postville, Iowa, during the Bush administration, Obama focuses on employers like Chipotle who was hiring unauthorized workers throughout their work in not just restaurants but supporting construction, hospitality, and agriculture services. “We’ve seen a drop on unauthorized workers arrested at worksites and a trend towards really focusing in the employer,” says Lashus.
The Obama Administration targeted employers with 2,740 companies audited in the 2010 fiscal year, resulting in a record $7 million in fines for businesses who employed illegal workers.
Now, unauthorized workers must be separated from their jobs while employers are charged huge fines. Larger employers are not safe anymore. “ICE has increased its capacity to go after large businesses”, says Lashus.
Because of this trend, both attorneys recommend being careful with employee records, hiring new employees with the help of the electronic I-9 system, conducting a self audit with the help of an immigration attorney.