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Alabama Employers Must Use E-Verify under Controversial New Immigration Law

  • June 21, 2011

Alabama has passed the strictest state immigration legislation to date.  The Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act (HB 56) was signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley (R) on June 9, 2011.  The new law, which becomes effective September 1, 2011, requires employers in the state to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm the work status of new workers.  Businesses that knowingly employ an individual without work authorization could have their business licenses suspended or revoked.  The new law also makes the knowing transport, trafficking or harboring of an undocumented alien a state crime.

Provisions to Curtail Illegal Immigration

Under the new law, the police must detain any individual suspected of being in the country illegally if the individual cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason.  An individual will establish a presumption of being in the U.S. lawfully if he or she produces a valid, unexpired Alabama driver’s license or nondriver identification card.  Other acceptable documents include any valid U.S. federal or state government-issued identification document bearing a photograph or other biometric identifier if proof of lawful status is required to obtain it and a foreign passport with valid visa and I-94.

One of the more controversial parts of the new law not yet seen in other states is the requirement that state agencies determine the immigration status of an individual seeking state or local public benefits using the Alabama Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlements (SAVE) program.  While certain state or local benefits, such as emergency care and primary or secondary education, are exempted from this requirement, public postsecondary education is specifically included.

The law also makes it an offense to enter “recklessly” into a lease with an undocumented alien.

Next Steps for Employers

The portion of the new law that requires employers use E-Verify takes effect for all employers on April 1, 2012.  However, certain contractors must begin using E-Verify, and obtain related attestations, beginning September 1, 2011, the law’s effective date.
 
Employers in Alabama should consider:

  • Reviewing the new law and determining when they must begin using the E-Verify system to verify all new employees; and
  • Reviewing their Form I-9 procedures to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.
     

The Alabama E-Verify requirement is similar to the Arizona requirement upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in May. (See our article, Supreme Court Determines Arizona’s Legal Arizona Workers Act Not Preempted by Federal Law.)  The other provisions are sure to face legal challenged in federal court.

This is only a brief summary of the new law.  Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to provide details and assist employers in achieving compliance with its requirements.

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