California Bans Local Laws Mandating Use of E-Verify Immigration System

For better or for worse, California always seems to want to go its own way.

So it is with the controversial federal E-Verify system that “provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.”

While states such as Arizona, Louisiana, and South Carolina are passing laws to mandate the use of E-Verify as a check against illegal immigration, California is going the other way.

According to the Los Angeles Times, ” (state) legislation signed into law … prohibits the state, cities and counties from mandating that private employers use E-Verify,” forcing cities and other local municipalities that have been working to comply with the E-Verify requirements to reverse course and undo what they have previously done in order to comply with state law.

Gripes about reliability of E-Verify system

And the reason for the E-Verify ban in California, at least publicly, is the gripe that many have had about it nationwide — the unreliability of the federal E-Vertify system. According to the newspaper:

The state ban (of E-Verify) received broad support, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Farm Bureau Federation, which questioned the accuracy of the databases used by the federal system.

Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), who introduced the bill, said he felt that mandatory E-Verify was an unnecessary burden on businesses.

“It was costly, time-consuming. It’s unfair for big businesses and definitely for small businesses,” he said. “Why make a flawed system mandatory?”

Fong said the system often misidentifies U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. One such worker is Jessica St. Pierre, 22, who said she was fired from her job at a telecommunications company because her name was not correctly entered into the E-Verify system. It took her four months to get another job.”

SHRM’s problems with E-Verify

The Society for Human Resource Management has lobbied for a national verification system, but has specifically criticized the reliability of E-Verify, outlining “problems with the system, including identity fraud — which poses substantial problems for employers who are held accountable for enforcing the law — mistakes in data accuracy and burdens on legal U.S. workers.”

Article Continues Below

In addition, “A SHRM survey showed that 92 percent of employers want to participate in an electronic verification program provided ‘the system is accurate, efficient and easy to use.’ ”

Despite the public pronouncements, California’s decision to legislate at the local level about the use of E-Verify is less about the reliability of the federal system and more about a state (and a legislature) that is overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats using this ban to make a political statement against imposing sanctions that might limit opportunities for illegal immigrants.

But no matter what the reason behind it, California’s legislative actions will surely reignite the national debate about immigration, E-Verify, and the long-standing inability of the federal government to fairly and consistently enforce workplace immigration laws.

For more of the Los Angeles Times story, click here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

Topics