Immigration Challenges: Not Going Away and Getting More Complicated

© frank peters - Fotolia.com
© frank peters - Fotolia.com

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If you’re in HR, you’re probably gaining a new role if you haven’t already.

No, it isn’t party planning (at least, let’s hope not). It isn’t babysitting either (though it can feel that way sometimes).

Raise your right hand, because HR people are getting sworn in as deputies in the U.S. government’s fight against illegal immigration. Sure, it may not be an official position, but more and more, HR professionals are being pushed to the front lines in the fight against illegal immigration.

The changing landscape

As demands change in immigration law, so must HR’s knowledge of the laws we’re helping to enforce. That’s why we thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to Kim Thompson, a partner with the Alanta office of law firm Fisher & Phillips, a specialist in this area employment law.

The breadth of changes border on absurd, but we tried to focus on a couple of areas that we thought would best serve working HR pros. With concerns about how new requirements continue to change the landscape of HR’s involvement in these issues, it is a great time to catch up if you haven’t been paying very close attention.

I-9 audits, state-specific regulations and e-verify, oh my!

The three biggest areas of concerns Thompson sees are focused around I-9 audits, state-specific immigration regulations and progress with the e-verify system.

“I-9 audits are becoming the primary enforcement tool for immigration,” said Thompson. “We’ve seen this ramp up in I-9 compliance from government agencies.”

And while employer-side enforcement of immigration laws isn’t a new concept, there is a nice side benefit to it. “This is a revenue source for the government so they are looking at finding mistakes that can’t be fixed,” she said.

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Thompson also pointed to state-by-state regulation of immigration laws. She said, “It’s a reaction on the part of the states because the federal government has left a void when it comes to immigration.”

Stricter immigration controls aren’t without their own sets of consequences. Alabama implemented one of the strictest immigration laws in the country and saw problems crop up immediately. “One of the effects of this that there was an exodus of individuals from the state,” said Thompson. “Many were legal workers but they had families who might have had a member who was an illegal immigrant.”

And while Alabama and other southern states are having issues finding enough workers to pick crops, other states see an influx of new immigrants. “We’re exporting the problem to a different state,” she said.

Lastly, we talked about e-verify and it’s progress in employment. “I do think that e-verify will eventually become a replacement for I-9 employment verification,” said Thompson. But, there is a caveat there, too. She reiterated, “E-verify is not an infallible system.”

Listen to the entire episode to catch more as well as talk about California and Arizona’s state-specific immigration laws as well as the situation with H-1B visas in the coming year.

[buzzsprout episode=”34703″ player=”true”]

Lance Haun is the editor of TLNT. He first joined ERE Media in 2010 as community director and contributing editor for TLNT, eventually becoming editor of our sister publication SourceCon and an occasional contributor at ERE. In between his first and second stint at ERE, he spent seven years as a consultant, writer, and researcher for The Starr Conspiracy, a B2B marketing agency that focuses on the HCM market. Prior to 2010, he worked full-time as an HR leader and moonlighted as a freelance writer and blogger. You can reach him directly at lance@tlnt.com.

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