NASHVILLE – On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill against illegal immigration in Tennessee by passing legislation authorizing the use of the federal E-Verify system by Tennessee companies. The bill passed by a unanimous 96-0 vote.
The bill, authored by Representative Joe Carr (R—Lascassas), requires all employers with six or more employees to participate. Businesses are provided two options: the E-Verify program, which has a 97% accuracy rate, or the presentation of a valid Tennessee driver’s license to check the lawful status of an individual.
Rep. Carr stated, “I am proud to lead our State in this effort to crack down on illegal immigration. Our citizens demanded a reform to ensure job opportunities are reserved for Tennesseans and not those individuals who are here illegally.”
“The federal government has completely failed in its constitutional responsibility to ensure the integrity of our borders. Because of that, it is up to us in Tennessee to take action,” said the conservative from Lascassas. “Passage of this bill today shows we are serious about honoring our pledge to voters to make a difference when it comes to combating illegal immigration.”
In addition to providing avenues for Tennessee businesses, HB 1378 also requires the use of Drivers Licenses for 1099 non-employees to show lawful presence and provides that participation in the E-Verify program provides “safe harbor” for businesses. If a business elects to use a driver’s license instead of E-Verify the “safe harbor” provision is not available. The legislation also assesses penalties for non-compliance of E-Verify. They include $500 for a first time offense, $1,000 for a second time offense, and $2,500 for each subsequent offense. Moreover, should a business knowingly hire an illegal alien, it’s business license will be suspended.
he full Senate has approved and sent to the governor legislation calling for Tennessee employers to use the “E-Verify” system to help ensure that new hires are in the state legally. The legislation calls for businesses with over five 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.
"This bill helps to ensure that those working in Tennessee are here legally,” said Senator Tracy. “Illegal immigration has a large financial impact on taxpayers, not to speak of national security concerns. We must begin to address this problem and this legislation is a big step in the right direction towards that goal.”
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 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.
“There are more than 140,000 illegal immigrants in Tennessee, with over 110,000 in the state’s workforce according to estimates,” added Tracy. “I am very pleased this bill has been approved.”