E- Verify -- The Senate Commerce Committee has voted to approve legislation calling for Tennessee employers to use the “E-Verify” system to ensure that new hires are in the state legally. There are more than 140,000 illegal immigrants in Tennessee, with over 110,000 in the state’s workforce according to estimates.
E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, allow participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees by entering their name and a social security number. It is free to employers in all 50 states, including Tennessee where more than 4,000 businesses have voluntarily participated in the system. The E-Verify system is 97.4 percent accurate.
The legislation calls for businesses with over 5 employees to obtain a copy of his or her driver’s license or utilize the E-Verify system. The bill provides a safe harbor for employers who use E-Verify if the worker is later found to be in the country illegally due to its accuracy in detecting illegal aliens.
The measure would penalize businesses for violation of the law with escalating consequences for repeated offenses. It also provides a mechanism for small businesses without Internet access to call the Department of Labor for verification assistance. Under the bill, businesses would keep verification records for three years after the hire or one year after termination of the person’s employment. It does not apply to those employed before the January 1, 2012 enactment date and will be applicable in phases depending on the number of workers employed by a business.
Federal contractors or subcontractors have been required to use E-verify since 2008 to determine employment eligibility of employees performing direct work. Fifteen states, including five which are adjacent to Tennessee, require the use of E-Verify for public and/or private employers. Another 25 states are considering similar legislation.