Remember when the fax machine came out? How about e-mail?
At first, people were reluctant to accept this technology. There were cries that it would ruin business, destroy relationships and just flat-out wouldn't work. However, there were also a few pioneers that embraced these new tools. These intrepid adventurers looked beyond the hype and saw the value that could be delivered by becoming "early adopters."
Change is hard. It's even harder if you're running a business. You don't have the time, resources, and money to jump on every train coming through touting a new and improved way of doing things. I should know â€¦ like you, I'm also running a business, and my time is precious. But there is one piece of technology that I wholeheartedly support. It's called E-Verify and it's the free government service designed to validate your employees' legal status to work for you.
A convert's point of view
I'll be the first one to tell you that I am dubious of many government programs. Ten years ago when E-Verify first appeared (it was called Basic Pilot back then), I was skeptical. I didn't really see the point of this process when the tried-and-true method of filling out I-9's was working just fine. Then comes increased immigration enforcement, ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and suddenly employers are finding themselves in court and paying heavy fines for having an employee on staff who wasn't legally authorized to work there. Some employers are even facing criminal charges â€¦ and this is just the beginning. I don't need to tell you, that in today's political climate, punishment against employers who hire an unauthorized worker will only get worse.
So how can you protect yourself?
E-Verify is an easy-to-use system in which you enter in the information from an I-9 form into an online database. In a few seconds you get back an answer that verifies if the employee is legally authorized to work in the United States . Best of all, this service is absolutely free to use. You only need to process new employees through E-Verify. Existing employees are exempt.
Who is using E-Verify?
For most companies, E-Verify is optional to use. Currently, there are close to 70,000 employers using the service today, with over 2.5 million verification queries submitted annually. If you are a federal contractor or sub-contractor, you are required by law to process all new hires through E-Verify. In addition, states including Arizona , Oklahoma and Mississippi have passed laws making E-Verify mandatory.
How does E-Verify protect me?
You don't need to look very hard to find a news headline about an ICE raid at a company. ICE is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm that routinely patrols and audits companies to ensure compliance with hiring laws. If you have run your new hires through the E-Verify system, you have created a very strong defense for yourself should ICE come knocking at your door. According to the federal government, "An employer who verifies work authorization under E-Verify has established a rebuttable presumption that it has not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien." For an extra 10 seconds of your time with a new hire, you have dramatically increased your level of compliance and security in regards to employment laws. If you aren't using E-Verify, and insist on collecting the information given to you with the I-9, your fate rests in whether your examination of the documents represented was reasonably sufficient. It's a big risk – and it's your word alone against ICE.
You're only as good as the company you keep
Let's face it – there are certain industries that ICE seems to like to target for raids: the agricultural and meat industries, construction, manufacturing, transportation companies and restaurants are high on their list of easy targets. The leaders in these industries are using E-Verify to great success in staying off of the radar. ICE knows which companies are using the system and which are not – and they target those who are not using E-Verify. Why? Because it's easier for them, plain and simple. If you're not using E-Verify, you will have a much tougher time proving that you acted, in good faith, to avoid hiring unauthorized workers. As a matter of fact, all of the major ICE raids recently involved a company that was not on the E-Verify system.
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How do I get started?
It's simple. Go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and search for E-Verify. Their website is: http://www.uscis.gov. Alternatively, you can also run a Google search on E-Verify and go from there. The registration process is fast and easy with each step carefully explained. Remember, E-Verify is free! Once you're in the system, you will enter information for new hires similar to what's found on the I-9 form; information like Social Security number and date of birth. Once entered, the information is checked by the system and you get a response in seconds. Ninety-five percent of entries are verified immediately. A small percent come back as a "tentative non-confirmation." This means something didn't match up quite right. Very often these are a result of a typo or a misspelling, and the employee has the chance to get the issue resolved. A small percentage comes back as denied outright. These are the unauthorized workers, which if you continue to keep on your payroll, can cause you a lot of grief if you get audited by ICE.
Change can be good
Remember the fax machine and email mentioned at the beginning of this article? Eventually nearly all businesses embraced the technology â€¦ and you know what? Everyone turned out to be a winner. Time was saved, money was earned, people were happy. E-Verify is no different. It's the kind of service that, after you have implemented it, you'll ask yourself, "Why wasn't I doing this before?" Well, that time is now. The benefits are plain and they are strong.
About the Author:
Jacob M. Monty is the founding partner of the Monty Partners LLP law firm, the largest Hispanic-owned law firm in the Southwest. Monty Partners specializes in helping companies ensure compliance with the law in regards to labor, employment and immigration. Monty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1.866.427.0152.