House to widen E-Verify law

Posted June 7, 2011 4:54 p.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2011 9:47 p.m. EDT

State House lawmakers gave tentative approval today to require businesses with 25 or more employees who provide services to cities or counties to use the federal E-Verify system to check any new workers’ immigration status.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, says the measure would ensure only legal workers could be paid with public dollars. “It’s a jobs bill,” he said.

Another bill sponsor, Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, says thirteen other states already require the use of E-Verify for contracts involving public money. “We are way behind everyone else on this.”

Under the measure, a business that fails to check all its employees with E-Verify could face fines of $2000 per unchecked employee.

Opponents argued that the federal program has a substantial error rate, especially for people who are naturalized citizens or are working on green cards. They also said it would impose an unreasonable burden on firms for whom public business is just a small part of their operation.

Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, said the bill is so broadly written that if a city wanted to contract with a realtor to help sell a property, or had its accounts handled by a local bank, those entire companies would have to implement E-Verify for all future hires.

“Folks, I didn’t come down here to impose greater regulation on business in this state,” Faison said. “What are we doing here?”

“This bill is too broad,” Faison continued. "It is focused on illegal immigration. It’s not focused on the common sense of how we go about getting services rendered within a community. There’s such a target lock on who we’re out trying to get that the collateral damage has been ignored.”

Cleveland said many of the objections opponents raised were the same ones raised a few years ago when the state required schools to use E-Verify, but the potential problems never materialized. He says half of the workers flagged by the system don’t appeal their case.

“The system works, and it works rather well,” Cleveland said, adding that he thought most big corporations, including Bank of America and Wachovia, already use E-Verify to check new hires.  (Both of those banks confirmed late today that they do, in fact, use E-Verify.)

The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 75-43. It’s scheduled for a final floor vote tomorrow.