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National Restaurant Association - Supreme Court decision will increase focus on E-Verify

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Supreme Court decision will increase focus on E-Verify

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to uphold Arizona’s tough-on-employers immigration law, Congress and state legislatures are increasingly likely to look at ways to expand use of the federal E-Verify system.

The high court affirmed May 24 that federal immigration laws do not preempt states from passing stricter controls on employers. At issue: a tough anti-immigration bill Arizona enacted in 2007 that allows the state to revoke business licenses for employers found to have knowingly hired employees unauthorized to work in the United States. The Arizona law requires most Arizona employers to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the work eligibility of new employees.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenged the law, arguing that it was preempted by federal immigration law. The Chamber also argued that because federal law makes the E-Verify program voluntary, a state cannot mandate it.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that Arizona's license-revocation law falls within the authority that Congress chose to leave for the states. The court also said states are not restricted from making the E-Verify program mandatory.

The high court's ruling is expected to increase the focus on E-Verify use at the federal and state levels. The National Restaurant Association is working with members of Congress on the creation of one federal employment verification system to avoid ending up with a patchwork of employment verification laws at the state and local level. While the use of E-Verify is mandated in Arizona, at one point it was forbidden in Illinois.

"The NRA believes employers must know with certainty what their responsibilities are under employment verification laws -- regardless of where they are located,"  says Angelo Amador, the Association's vice president, labor and workforce policy.

Five states have passed bills to mandate E-Verify use for all or most employers: Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah. A number of other states require state contractors or state agencies to use the system.

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