Ohio's Proposed Mandatory E-Verify Law - Bad For Ohio's Employers - Bad for Ohio's Economy

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On May 26, 2011 the US Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s mandatory E-Verify law is constitutional and can go forward thereby requiring all businesses operating in the State of Arizona to use this federally created voluntary pilot system, on a mandatory basis. A month later, the Ohio Legislature introduced Senate Bill 286 which is an Arizona E-Verify copycat bill, purporting to also mandate Ohio businesses to use the E-Verify employment eligibility verification online system. This article will explain that the proposed Ohio E-Verify law is bad for Ohio’s businesses and bad for Ohio’s economy. The current E-Verify system is riddled with inaccuracies and a mandatory compliance law will cost Ohio employers and citizens millions of dollars in administrative overhead and down time.

The Arizona Case

The US Chamber of Commerce had sued the State claiming that federal immigration laws may not be enforced by any State and that such enforcement is exclusively reserved for the federal government. They cited the sweeping 1986 immigration reform which stripped the States from any ability to undertake any such enforcement actions. In reality, however, Congress did leave a clause in such laws allowing the states to legislate regarding “all licenses necessary to operate the business.” It was from this narrow clause was that the State of Arizona able to successfully defeat the constitutional challenge to its E-Verify legislation.

In a 5-3 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion stating that Arizona had the authority to legislate enforcement provisions for its employment verification apparatus. “We hold that Arizona’s licensing law falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states and therefore is not expressly preempted,” the Chief Justice ruled.

The Ohio Mandatory E-Verify Proposal

Ohio’s E-Verify copycat legislation was introduced in the Ohio Senate on Wednesday June 29, 2011. Representatives Combs and Bubp introduced this bill, which would require all Ohio employers – both public and private – to use the E-Verify system in ensuring the employment eligibility of new hires. The bill also outlines provisions for filing complaints and sanctions for employers that hire illegal aliens, which include firing all such workers, revocations of business license as well as criminal liability for violators. As of the date of this article, this proposed law was not referred to committee.

Why Ohio’s Mandatory E-Verify Program is Bad for Ohio’s Employers

A Mandatory E-Verify law in Ohio would cost Ohio employers millions of dollars in administrative cost plugging in data in the federal E-Verify system. Many rural employers do not have the skills or the high-speed Internet connectivity to do so. Furthermore, in many small businesses that do not have an HR department, the compliance will fall on the shoulders of the owner of the business herself which is not practical.

Errors in the E-Verify system itself will cost 800,000 workers nationally to lose their jobs and $3.6 million to correct such errors according to government data. The loss of such workers in today’s high unemployment reality is certainly bad news for Ohio’s workers and their employers. Such government data suggest that the error rate in E-Verify are even higher for employers who have a higher percentage of immigrant worker population as is the situation in many sectors of the workforce including high tech. and agricultural, and construction jobs. Green card holders and recently naturalized foreign nationals are ten times more apt to be erroneously identified by the system as ineligible to accept employment. Hence, Ohio’s proposed mandatory E-Verify system will have the unintended consequence of discriminating against such workforce.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a mandatory E-Verify system will decrease national tax proceeds by $17 billion over a decade. Ohio’s share of such proceeds will proportionally decrease as a result. Immigration lawyers in Columbus and Ohio as a whole have voiced their objection to this proposed legislation and plan to testify in opposition. Please join us in opposing this ill-advised proposal.

At a time when Ohio is trying to lift itself out of an economic rut, a mandatory E-Verify system seems to take us deeper and deeper in the hole.