Government shutdown stops employers from E-Verifying applicant immigration status

Updated: Jan. 10, 2019 at 7:30 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The government shutdown is about to begin it’s fourth week and while so much attention is focused on the fight over money for a border wall, that fight itself is at least temporarily removing what some immigration experts call the “electronic wall” meant to keep undocumented immigrants from taking American jobs.

E-Verify is a national database that most states, including Alabama, require companies to use when hiring for a job to make sure you’re legally allowed to work in the United States.

“In effect, it’s kind of an electronic wall for employees to gain access into American employers,” says Tammy Baker, an attorney specializing in employment law at Jackson-Lewis.

If you try to log in right now, the system is shuttered by the shutdown. That means there’s no way to electronically make sure a new hire is legal.

“With E-Verify down, they can’t run that test, so employers are still required to collect I-9s from each employee within 3 business days, but they can’t verify it,” Baker warns. “That could result in people working for your for 3-4, 6 or 8 weeks - however long the shutdown lasts - and then found out to be undocumented and not able to work in the US, and that person would have to be terminated.”

That would be a waste of time and money spent training these new employees. So what can you do if you’re trying to hire for a new job?

“You should not refuse to hire someone because you can’t E-Verify them, and you shouldn’t terminate somebody because they have anything but a green light from E-Verify,” advises Baker Donelson attorney Jenna Bedsole. “What the shutdown will have some affect on is the employees you hire during the shutdown and good record keeping is crucial. You need to keep track of which employees you have not E-Verified, and which you have.”

If you’re applying for a new job, make sure you keep a copy of your I-9 form in case there’s a question once the shutdown ends.

“It does work when it’s up and running, it doesn’t work when the government is shutdown,” Baker says.

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