Haslam signs E-Verify law

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee employers should use an Internet-based system to ensure their new employees are in the state legally, according to a law Gov. Bill Haslam signed late last week.

Co-sponsored by Sens. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), who represents Marshall County, and Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who represents Bedford County, the new law calls on employers to examine records on the "E-Verify" Web site.

"This bill represents significant progress in addressing illegal immigration in Tennessee," Ketron said. "With unemployment at 9.6 percent (statewide and 14.9 percent in Marshall County) illegal workers definitely have an impact on our job market. It also has implications for our border security and places additional burdens on taxpayers for government services."

The legislation requires businesses with more than five employees to obtain a copy of a new employee's driver's license or utilize the E-Verify system, but provides a safe harbor for employers who use E-Verify if the worker is later found to be in the country illegally.

E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, allows 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 state reports.

The signing of the new law comes after a Supreme Court ruling for an Arizona law that requires businesses to verify the employment eligibility with E-Verify. The practical effect of the decision is to uphold the right of states to require employers to use the E-Verify program.

There are more than 140,000 illegal immigrants in Tennessee, with over 110,000 in the state's workforce according to conservative estimates.

"This new law provides an avenue to stop the influx of illegal aliens who come here fraudulently for employment," Ketron said.