Local News

State May Have To Verify Legal Status Of New Employees

Posted July 28, 2006 8:42 a.m. EDT

— State agencies would have to verify the legal status of all new employees under a bill given final approval in the General Assembly on Thursday night.

The provision, sponsored in an amendment by Rep. George Cleveland, was added to a "technical corrections" measure. Cleveland's proposal passed 102-2 in the House.

"We have to ensure that government agencies in the state of North Carolina do not hire illegal aliens," said Cleveland, R-Onslow. "It will set a good example for the rest of the employers in the state."

New state employees already submit self-identification forms to the state, a process that Cleveland called a "farce."

Under the new section, North Carolina state agencies, including the University of North Carolina and community college systems, would have to use a Department of Homeland Security verification process to confirm that the employee is lawfully present in the United States.

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, was one of two lawmakers to oppose the idea, citing an increased cost to state agencies who will have to learn the program. Cleveland, however, said the program was simple and required little or no training.

Most agencies would have to start using the program at the beginning of 2007. Local school districts would begin in March of that year.

DHS has expanded its free, Web-based service across the country, although only a few states have capitalized on the project. In April, Georgia passed a law that requires all public employers to use the identification program, which compares the information provided by the prospective employee with a database of information from the Social Security Administration and DHS.

Most states, however, simply encouraged businesses to use the program to verify the legal status of workers.

"Someone has to start doing something about the problem of illegal aliens," Cleveland said. North Carolina has a population of about 400,000 undocumented workers, according to the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization.

The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.