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E-Verify & Responsible Immigration ReformPosted Monday, July 11, 2011, at 11:13 AM
As I go to work each day and travel around the district, people constantly stop me and say "Craig, we've got to do something about illegal immigration."
While immigration is traditionally an issue reserved for the federal government, Washington's lack of action has led many states to take charge. Tennessee is no exception and we have made responsible progress during this legislative session with HB 1378, the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act.
The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act, which passed 96-0 in the House, is a bipartisan approach to immigration reform, focused on utilizing the E-verify system.
E-verify is an internet based program run by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. It allows employers to punch in a potential new hires social security number and, within seconds, receive a response that tells whether or not that individual is eligible to work in the US. E-verify is free to businesses and in Tennessee 4,000 companies already use the program.
The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act requires companies in the state to run every new hire through the E-verify system. Failure to do so results in a $500-$2,500 fine for the business. Additionally, any business found to have knowingly hired an illegal alien faces suspension of it's business license for up to 1 year.
There are two exceptions to the new law. One, companies with 5 or fewer employees, mainly Mom & Pop operations that employ family members, are exempt from the new rules. Two, companies may opt to keep a copy of a valid drivers license on file as proof of a new hires legal status. However, if a business chooses the drivers license option over E-verify, they will not be exempt from the penalties if the new hire is later found to be an illegal.
I was proud to support this legislation. Tennessee has an unemployment rate above 10% and we need to make sure businesses are hiring Tennesseans. This bill accomplishes that goal. It is a responsible step toward comprehensive immigration reform and I look forward to more action on this issue next year.
If you have any questions about this new law or would like to hear more about another issue, please contact my legislative office and we'll get your questions answered as soon as possible. Have a great week!
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