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Navigating Various State Immigration Laws
Immigration Tangle: State and local governments are spawning a patch work of laws and local ordinances to deal with illegal immigrants; they create a dilemma for businesses, especially those with operations in multiple jurisdictions.
By Elizabeth Grey Morrison
Date Posted: 9/1/2008
Even as the U.S. Congress refuses to address illegal immigration, state and local governments continue to be active in dealing with the issue. This trend is creating interesting dilemmas for companies in the forest products industry, especially companies that operate in different jurisdictions.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 175 laws and resolutions have been enacted in 39 state legislatures. Generally, these laws cover changes to enforcement, employment, or identification document policies.
Law enforcement bills include sanctions that would authorize the state attorney to negotiate enforcement of federal immigration laws. Several bills would penalize the transportation or harboring of unauthorized immigrants. A number of bills also require law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of arrested or jailed non-citizens. Other bills relate to “sanctuary cities” for unauthorized immigrants and affect bail regulations for unauthorized aliens.
Employment law includes employer regulations for hiring unauthorized workers and addresses the use of federal employment eligibility verification systems by public agencies, private employers and state contractors. Other new laws cover immigrants’ unemployment compensation, identify theft legislation regarding employment, and wage withholding for non-resident aliens.
New laws on identification documents would create stricter guidelines with regard to residential status and proof of legal status in obtaining an ID or a driver’s license. Some bills would provide for certain non-citizens or unauthorized residents to obtain driving certificates, while others concern penalties and procedures for uninsured drivers or drivers charged with DUIs.
While many bills have been passed concerning immigration, there are 41 state laws and resolutions listed in Table 1 that relate to immigration law or general hiring practices. Listed alphabetically by state, the chart includes the date on which the bills were passed as well as a general summary of each law or resolution. For a complete list of recent state laws and resolutions dealing with immigration or for more information about the laws listed on the chart, visit http://www.ncsl.org/print/press/immigration legislationreport.pdf.
Wood-Mizer Products of Indianapolis, Ind., the largest portable sawmill manufacturer in the world, is no stranger to navigating various state laws. With over 600 employees worldwide, the company has an established system for handling compliance issues, operating out of six states:
Angie Danner, Wood-Mizer’s vice president of human resources, said that one strategy to being compliant is to monitor no-match letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Danner said Wood-Mizer has received a few of these letters, and while no one was ever threatened with job loss, the issue was addressed with the employees in question. Tellingly, in every case, the same employees would stop coming to work the next day.
In addition to monitoring no-match letters, Wood-Mizer also uses E-Verify, a Web-based work authorization software that uses data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the SSA. Danner said Wood-Mizer’s attorney recommended using the service, believing that it would be in the company’s best interest. Although they are new users, Danner said that she is not aware of the company receiving any no-match letters from the SSA since it started using the service.
Another good way to ensure compliance is to have a good relationship with an attorney familiar with state laws. However, if you don’t want to spend $100 every time you have to ask a question, Danner recommended utilizing the Society for Human Resource Management. Charging only a yearly membership fee, Danner said this resource is both full of information and economically feasible.
“I have been in human resources for 20 years, and I use it just about every week,” Danner said. “It’s just a great resource, and again your yearly membership fee is your only expense.”
The Society for Resource Management publishes a monthly magazine, HR Magazine, and also has a wealth of human resource information on its Web site at http://www.shrm.org/.
For those who are new to human resources, Danner suggested that they enroll in a HR certificate program. Having gone through a program at
While companies can have the best intentions when hiring, no one is completely immune to the possibility of mistakenly hiring someone who is not authorized to work in the country. Differing state and local laws make compliance tough for companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions. However, by utilizing these strategies, you can reduce your risk and better ensure your various offices are compliant.
HR Strategies for Companies with Employees in Multiple States:
• Monitor no-match letters.
• Use a verification service such as E-Verify.
• Have a good relationship with an experienced labor law attorney.
• Utilize the Society for Human Resource Management (http://www.shrm.org/).
• Enroll in an HR certificate program.