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Immigration Laws Proving Difficult for Business Owners
It’s not news that the U.S. is cracking down on illegal immigrants, though there is constant debate on how that should actually be done. It’s a focal issue among presidential candidates, and many people have a set opinion as to how this matter should be dealt with.
And it leaves very few people unaffected, especially business owners. In fact, the newest regulations have caused some new confusion. First, in August the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the implementation of a new “no-match” letter program, which would be a formal letter informing an employer that the social security number provided for an employee does not match that employee’s name. In October, the Northern District Court of California put this new program on hold, but in November the court suspended the injunction, giving DHS until March of 2008 to rework the program.
Until the program is in full swing, employers are required to clear up any discrepancies using an I-9 hiring form. However, the problem there is the Title VII anti-discrimination laws that prevent employers from asking their employees any questions that may come across as prejudice toward their country of origin. In addition, employers are not allowed to ask for a specific document to verify someone’s U.S. residency status, but can only refer to the list of documents provided with the original I-9 form.
As if those little hang-ups aren’t enough to make matters a pain, many states are issuing their own laws that go beyond, and even contradict, each other and the federal regulations. Colorado requires employees to sign an affidavit stating they are legally eligible to work. Illinois prohibits employers from using the E-Verify program (a database of social security numbers used to verify an employees eligibility), but Arizona requires employers to use it.
The state and federal governments need to really look at regulations and unify the system (as if we didn’t know that already). In it’s current condition, an employer may be meeting federal regulations but breaking laws in his/her own state. And employers who do business in multiple states have tons of statutes to look over and try to meet without getting in trouble.
At this point, it is basically a lose/lose situation for anyone that hires employees that are not Caucasian or African-American. The process is exasperating, to say the least. While the government focuses more and more on the boarder, employers are left to wonder if civil or even criminal charges may be in their future because they simply don’t know whose rules to comply with.
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