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WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation: Alabama's disappointing E-Verify compliance

Many Alabama businesses may not realize it. But, they are breaking state law by not using E-Verify to make sure applicants are eligible to legally work here.

Posted: Sep 24, 2018 8:13 PM
Updated: Sep 26, 2018 4:05 PM

Our latest WAAY 31 I-Team investigation looks into an effort to stop Alabama businesses from hiring illegal immigrants. Right now, state law requires all employers to use E-Verify. But, many of those companies are ignoring the law.

We worked to uncover why Alabama is falling short and what one state senator wants to do about it.

Jeffrey Dean has worked in the home building industry for more than a quarter-century. At The Reserve at Lake Guntersville, Dean’s helping build high-dollar homes with picture-perfect views. But, Dean says there’s something wrong with the picture when it comes to his pay and he says it’s been that way for decades.

"My wages have been down for years," Dean told WAAY 31. Dean blames illegal immigrant labor for holding down construction wages in Alabama.

"I sent letters to the Governor of Alabama several times complaining about it,” he told us. “I know wages are down. And sometimes you have to go a little bit further to find decent money."

State Senator Arthur Orr wants to know, "Why are we not vetting people to make sure they're able, legally, to work in this state?".

Senator Orr is investigating why some businesses in Alabama fail to comply with E-Verify. Already, state law requires all employers to use the federal database. It checks whether a job applicant is legally living in the U.S. and okay for an employer to hire.

"We need to make sure that every person here is legally eligible to work as opposed to those that are here illegally and taking jobs from American citizens," Orr told WAAY 31.

Senator Orr requested research from the State Legislative Services Agency about E-Verify use in Alabama. The report concludes Alabama’s E-Verify compliance is at only 60 percent compared to 94 percent in Georgia.

Alabama’s not alone.

According to the Pew Research Center, most state’s requiring E-Verify have compliance rates in the same range as Alabama’s: 50 percent up to two-thirds. Georgia’s high-compliance of 94 percent is unusual.

Senator Orr told WAAY 31 E-Verify laws are relatively new territory and time has proven Alabama needs to be more proactive like Georgia. "I'm going to look at a bill to see if we could bring that to Alabama -- that same system would get our compliance rate up from sixty-plus percent to ninety-plus percent like they have in Georgia," he said.

The research shows a big gap between E-Verify compliance rates in Georgia and Alabama. WAAY 31 talked with management at businesses who are following Alabama law. They tell us E-Verify is a big benefit, not only for them, but for employees and the state.

In Hartselle, Claborn Manufacturing Company builds security doors, windows and other products for jails and prisons.

We talked with the company’s chief operations officer. "We feel like it's beneficial for several reasons,” Stephen Claborn told WAAY 31.

He sizes up E-Verify as fast, efficient and easy to use. "We don't feel like it's a burden,” Claborn explained. “We feel like we're doing our duty. But, we also think that it's fair that we all use it. It's mandated for private and public businesses here in the state of Alabama.“

Claborn sees no reason why an Alabama business would not use E-Verify. "It discourages illegal immigration, number one. Number two, we feel like it helps protect the American worker against companies that might want to pay sub-standard wages. And ultimately, it decreases the burden of the American taxpayer."

Claborn supports making Alabama’s E-Verify law stronger. "I think we should all be using it."

Across the state line, Georgia requires businesses to prove they’re using E-Verify or else they don’t get a business license. That’s on the front-end of the process. In Alabama, it takes a complaint to the attorney general to begin a process that puts business licenses at risk. That’s on the back end.

Senator Orr says Alabama might need to follow Georgia’s lead. “It's something I think we can up our participation level here in Alabama using the best practices that they have discovered over in Georgia."

Back in Guntersville, Jeffrey Dean says that could level the playing field and make sure his co-workers are working here legally. "I don't mind if they come here. But, I do mind if they come here and don't make a happy home for everybody."

Senator Orr told us he’s continuing to investigate issues that might be holding down compliance with E-Verify in Alabama.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 858355

Reported Deaths: 12327
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby967281638
Davidson89777942
Knox51190637
Hamilton44647496
Rutherford43278437
Williamson28148217
Sumner24170349
Montgomery20475228
Wilson18929236
Out of TN1826899
Sullivan16994300
Unassigned16910134
Blount15582196
Bradley15123151
Washington14713245
Maury13566172
Sevier13464176
Putnam11444175
Madison11292241
Robertson9810132
Anderson8810171
Hamblen8633173
Greene7936156
Tipton7403104
Coffee6925123
Dickson6856113
Cumberland6775133
Carter6671158
Gibson6559146
McMinn655998
Bedford6528129
Roane6327105
Jefferson6249125
Hawkins6188107
Loudon617169
Lawrence599191
Monroe588796
Warren556481
Dyer5445106
Franklin516590
Fayette512678
Cheatham458456
Obion455596
Cocke452699
Lincoln437163
Rhea436375
Marshall420758
Campbell417863
Weakley416965
Giles4014100
Henderson381176
White368970
Carroll363683
Macon363178
Hardin358568
Hardeman354364
Lauderdale321044
Henry320976
Claiborne318973
Scott316045
Marion313147
Overton302561
Wayne296934
Hickman285146
McNairy284454
DeKalb280754
Smith278939
Haywood271562
Grainger263950
Morgan251939
Trousdale250622
Fentress243447
Johnson242239
Bledsoe216311
Chester215551
Polk209725
Unicoi204449
Crockett203649
Cannon192831
Union192834
Humphreys182428
Grundy179434
Sequatchie171729
Lake170526
Benton167640
Decatur159239
Lewis158626
Meigs139325
Stewart133428
Jackson132536
Clay110330
Houston109933
Perry107328
Moore101817
Van Buren85523
Pickett75824
Hancock59512

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