Guest Opinion, Arizona Daily Star

Greedy employers oppose new law on illegal workers

Tucson, Arizona | October 23, 2007

Opinion by Hal Netkin

Why are Arizona business groups fighting so fiercely against the state's new employer-sanctions law due to go into effect Jan. 1? Is it because they are concerned that legal workers will accidentally be flagged as unauthorized or because they are concerned that discrimination will occur? I don't think so.

Let's be honest. The opponents of the employer-sanctions law are opposed to enforcing our nation's immigration laws out of greed. They have become addicted to cheap illegal labor and don't want to kick the habit.

The Arizona law requires that employers use the E-Verify, or basic pilot, program, which is an online database administered by the Department of Homeland Security. E-Verify allows an employer or the employer's designated agent to verify that new workers are legally eligible to work in the United States.
Hal Netkin is registered with Homeland Security as an E-Verify designated agent.
E-Verify is totally colorblind, ethnic-origin blind and surname blind. Employers cannot discriminate against workers because the only criteria for determining whether a new hire is authorized to work is a match between the new worker's name, Social Security number and, in some cases, a photograph.

I should know. I use E-Verify in my own business.

The claim by employers that they will find themselves without workers is unfounded. E-Verify does not allow employers to check the work authorization status of existing workers — only new hires. An employer or designated agent may not initiate a work-authorization probe of any existing worker even if the worker's immigration status is in question.

The claim that employers would discriminate against work applicants based on skin color or appearance holds no water. Employers who use cheap labor don't discriminate based on appearance — only on how little pay the worker will accept. Employers cannot discriminate because they may not prescreen applicants — the worker must be hired first and on the payroll before any work-authorization queries may be made.

The concern that opponents of the sanctions law express about warrantless searches is a red herring. Homeland Security has always had the right to audit I-9 records (these are the documents that verify an employee's eligibility to work in the United States) as long as it provides an employer with three days' notice prior to a work-site inspection. No subpoena or warrant is required.

Employers cannot fire legal workers who were flagged as unauthorized because of errors such as a name change through marriage. Before firing a worker, the employer must provide the worker with appropriate contact information and allow that worker eight government business days to clear up any mistakes.

E-Verify gives legal workers with Social Security errors a chance to fix their records so that they will receive future benefits.

Employers cannot be held responsible for errors in the system. In a case where a worker cleared the E-Verify query but is later discovered to be unauthorized, the responsibility buck gets passed to the federal government. The only way an employer can be guilty of "knowingly" hiring an unauthorized worker is if that employer does not use E-Verify.

Write to Hal Netkin at [email protected].