On May 13, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed legislation expanding the state�s requirement for the use of the federal E-Verify system when hiring workers, closes a loophole for project worker identification and imposes severe penalties for violations.

Photo courtesy Office of Gov. Nathan Deal

The new law builds upon previous state regulations that required public owners and public works contractors to use E-Verify, and expands the mandate to all businesses with more than 10 employees. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, for employers with 500 or more full-time employees, and on July 1, 2012, for firms with between 100 and 499 workers. On July 1, 2013, employers with between 11 and 99 full-time workers will need to comply.

 “What we’ve done is create a level playing field for all employers,” said Gov. Deal in a press statement announcing his signing of the bill. “The use of E-Verify means everyone plays by the same rules – and it protects employers by giving them a federal stamp of approval on their workforce.”

Mark Woodall, director of governmental affairs for Georgia AGC, says the new law closes a “gaping loophole” that some independent contractors, classified as 1099 contractors, had been exploiting under the previous E-Verify regulations.

Because independent contractors, who have no employees, are not allowed to self-verify their immigration status, they could not participate in E-Verify, says Woodall. In several instances last year when illegal workers were found at construction sites, it most often involved these 1099 contractors, who could be hired without the E-Verify system.

The new law requires these workers to provide a driver’s license or identification card from a state that verifies immigration status.

The bill, HB 87, creates a new offense of “aggravated identity fraud” for anyone who uses false identification for purposes of obtaining employment. The offense carries maximum penalties of 15 years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000.

Leaders of AGC and ABC both expressed frustration at the federal inaction on immigration reform.

“We ought not be doing this at the state level,” said Woodall. “You don’t want a patchwork of 50 different requirements on this. Hopefully the pressure will start building from the state level back up to Washington for them to do something.”