Local News

Getting Any State Job Now Means Online Immigration Check

Posted January 25, 2007 11:51 p.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2007 5:54 a.m. EST

A program designed to prevent illegal immigrants from working in the U.S. is being used in North Carolina, and this month the state is screening all new employees through the Employment Verification Program.

Critics content, however, that the system is flawed and will keep some legal workers from earning a living.

The program is a free, online system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An employer types in a new worker's information, such as name and Social Security number, and within seconds the employer can find out if that person is eligible to work in this country.

All state agencies, offices and universities must screen new employees using the system.

"It is a little bit nerve-wracking for the employees, understanding that they are going to have their employee verification process through the federal government," Vicki Bradley, human resources director at UNC-Chapel Hill, said Thursday.

Bradley said about 800 new employees have been put in the system since Jan 1. Of those, 41 new employees have been red-flagged, which gives them eight days to resolve the issue with the federal government or be fired.

Merisol Jimenez, director of the Hispanic advocacy group El Pueblo, said she is not comfortable with the new system.

"We have serious concerns about this program, Jimenez said. She said it is backlogged and often spits out bad information regarding people going through the immigration process.

"There is a lot of flux that happens with individual cases with immigration, and a database just can't keep up with that," Jimenez said.

While the system may not be perfect, Bradley said the university must follow the law and make sure its workers are legal.

"We follow the requirements and do what we are supposed to do to make sure that we do have employees that are verified to work in the United States," Bradley said.

The public school system goes next. Schools begin implementing the system March 1.