E-Verify bill overcomes first hurdle in Senate with approval of Senate Commerce Committee

(NASHVILLE, TN), April 6, 2011 — The Senate Commerce Committee has voted 8 to 1 to approve legislation calling for  Tennessee employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that new hires are in the state legally.  The legislation, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), is the first in a three-pronged approach to combat illegal immigration in Tennessee.

“There are more than 140,000 illegal immigrants in Tennessee, with over 110,000 in the state’s workforce,” said Senator Tracy.  “This has far-reaching effects on our state, including an impact on employee wages, costs to schools, unpaid hospital expenses and the need for additional law enforcement resources, to name a few.  This bill asks businesses to take one simple step beyond the current I-9 requirements to verify a new hire is not in the state illegally by utilizing the E-Verify System’s Internet website or by making a telephone call.”

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 legislation, Senate Bill 1669, would penalize businesses for hiring illegal immigrants with escalating consequences for repeated offenses.  It also provides a mechanism for small businesses without Internet access to call by telephone for verification assistance.  The businesses would keep verification records for three years after the hire, or one year after termination of the person’s employment under the bill.  It does not apply to those who are already employed before the January 1, 2012 enactment date.

“We have worked very hard on this legislation to accommodate business concerns,” Tracy added.  “The result is a common-sense approach that makes verification as simple as possible, but still focuses on identifying those who are here illegally,” Tracy added. 

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. 

The Tennessee General Assembly is also considering the “Lawful Immigration Enforcement Act” which calls for state and local law enforcement to determine the legal status of an individual in question in the course of a lawful stop, and the “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act” which would give state agencies authorization to verify the lawful status of an alien in Tennessee before receiving any “non-emergency” public benefits.

“Individual states and cities across the country are tired of the inaction by the federal government to do their job in protecting our borders,” added Tracy.  “This bill comes as a mandate by Tennesseans who want action to curb the tide of illegal immigration.”

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