Under the Dome

NC House votes to expand immigration checks on workers

The state House voted 80-39 Thursday to require more employers to check their workers’ immigration status through the federal E-Verify program.

House Bill 318 – the “Protect North Carolina Workers Act” – would require E-Verify for hiring temporary workers whose employment period is nine months or less. And while the current law requires E-Verify for businesses with 25 or more employees, the bill would lower that number to cover businesses with five or more employees.

A number of workers would still be exempt from the requirement – farm workers, independent contractors and people who provide “domestic service in a private home that is sporadic, irregular or intermittent.”

The bill would also eliminate the use of identification documents issued by foreign consulates to establish legal residency.

E-Verify is an online service that employers use to compare an applicant’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form with federal government records. It helps identify workers who are in the country illegally.

“E-Verify is a sensible way to protect jobs for our citizens,” said Ron Woodard of N.C. Listen, a group that advocates against illegal immigration. “We need to get rid of the loopholes, and that’s what this bill does. I think we want to make sure these jobs go to people who are legally here.”

A House committee also heard this week from a worker who said he lost his job when he reported his employer’s use of workers here illegally.

Rep. Marvin Lucas, a Spring Lake Democrat, said he wants businesses to be more responsible for who they hire.

“We ought not tolerate illegal folk in our state or in our country,” Lucas said. “But it seems to me that there’s a real easy solution – make it a felony for an employer to hire one.”

Most Democrats opposed the bill, with some saying the new requirements would be a burden on small businesses. Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham said he was concerned by the anti-immigrant rhetoric in Thursday’s debate.

“It’s problematic to have an undertone to the discussion that somehow does not treat these immigrants as God’s children,” he said.