April 2, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Alabama Deadline for Businesses to Register With E-Verify

April 1, 2012

http://www.al.com

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Today is the deadline for Alabama businesses to be registered with the E-Verify program under the state's immigration law.

The system, which compares data from each employee's Form I-9 with various government databases, is one of the ways the state will make sure that companies aren't hiring undocumented immigrants.

But using E-Verify properly is important, and its misuse could have serious consequences, according to Wendy Padilla-Madden, an immigration attorney with Birmingham-based law firm Balch & Bingham LLC. Some business people aren't sure what exactly it does or doesn't do, she said.

"I think there is a misconception among employers that this system gives you somebody's immigration status," she said. "What it does is it lets you know if somebody is authorized to work or not."

The federal databases that E-Verify matches Form I-9 information against include data from Social Security and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Employers should read the memorandum of understanding for E-Verify that spells out their responsibilities in using the system, Padilla-Madden said. She said the top person in the company should read it and not see it as an afterthought.

There is no cost to enroll, but there are administrative costs to employers, she said.

According to a study last year by the Center for American progress, implementing E-Verify will cost employers around $2.6 billion nationwide. If broken down on a business-by-business measurement, E-Verify will cost an average $1,254 for a 10-person business for first year. A business with 50 employees would pay $3,163 and a business with 100 employees would pay $5,515.

Implementing a system for E-Verify is difficult for some large employers because it takes a while for them to roll out a new policy, Padilla-Madden said. Medium and small companies face the challenge of finding the resources to properly comply with the system.

While I-9 enforcement may have been low priority in the past, there's significant liability involved if employers misuse E-Verify or Form I-9 procedures, she said.

"Not because they don't want to comply, but they're overwhelmed by all the regulations that are coming at them from every which way," she said.

Last year, E-Verify sent more than 26,000 emails to employers who were noncompliant, she said. If employers don't fix their practices, then the complaints are sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and lawsuits could ensue.

Under Alabama's immigration law, an employer's first offense for hiring an undocumented worker requires it to terminate the worker and to have up to three years probation. During that time, the employer would have to file quarterly reports with the local district attorney's office. The state is also required to suspend the employer's business license for no more than 10 days.

On a second violation, the state and municipal county government is mandated to permanently revoke business licenses in all areas where there was an illegal immigrant working at the company.

A third strike would require the government to suspend the business' license forever.

"I don't think employers can afford to give low priorities to I-9 and E-Verify," Padilla-Madden said.

E-Verify, while still voluntary on a federal level, is mandatory in Alabama and other states. However, other states are implementing the requirement at a slower pace, giving employers more time to comply.

Some states are giving them a year, but Alabama's giving its companies just months, she said.

Another thing companies need to be wary of overreacting to the E-Verify requirements.

"I think that E-Verify in many ways has created almost this reaction that you're just afraid that you're not doing enough," she said. "Then you end up falling into the realm of you're doing too much."

CONTACT MARTIN SWANT

Martin Swant covers technology companies, advertising firms and business legislation.

Contact him at 325-2118 or mswant@bhamnews.com.



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