Immigration law a burden for Alabama’s small businesses

Published 11:14am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

By JAN GRIFFEY / Editor

Alabama’s legislature continues to grapple this week with what to do with the state’s immigration law.

Those who work with human resources and accounts receivable in small businesses in the state – like I do – are left to wonder whether any problem posed by illegal immigrants warrants the hours of tedious, cumbersome and seemingly unnecessary work the law has caused.

It seems strange that Alabama’s conservatives, who claim to want to foster less government involvement in the operation of businesses here, have passed a law that does the opposite.

For those of you who may not know, the passage of Alabama’s immigration law now requires all new employees be verified as to citizenship and immigration status through the Department of Homeland Security.

Most businesses like ours have always followed the law. Now, we must prove — and prove again — that we do so.

Previously, businesses were simply required to have new employees fill out the federal government’s I-9 form, which collects information and copies of documents proving residency or work status, such as driver’s license, passport, birth certificate and Social Security card.

Now, employers must E-Verify new hires through an online site via the Department of Homeland Security within three days of hiring.

Companies must designate an employee to handle these government verifications and that employee must take a tutorial and pass a test to make certain they understand the rules and regulations governing this new hiring process. That process takes several hours in total.

While the E-Verify process itself doesn’t take much time, it’s tedious. That’s added work for many small businesses workers who already are pinched for time in this challenging economy.

What is surprising is, in addition to the additional verification as to an employee’s eligibility to work, small businesses who want to get paid for work they do for any government entity, like the board of education for example, must provide copies of Memorandums of Understanding and fill out a plethora of documentation, further attesting to the fact they are complying with Alabama’s immigration regulations.

Is all this really necessary? Is the hiring of illegal immigrants such a problem here as to warrant putting such an added burden on the back of the state’s small businesses?

I hope our legislators, when tweaking Alabama’s immigration law, will show some faith in Alabama’s small business operators, who work hard to follow the law, and not make us jump through hoops to prove we do so.

Jan Griffey is the editor for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669.3131 ext. 36 or by email at jan.griffey@shelbycountyreporter.com.

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