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

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 247587

Reported Deaths: 3131
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36376562
Davidson31748337
Knox1273889
Rutherford11893114
Hamilton11758109
Williamson710256
Sumner6114110
Wilson469059
Putnam444056
Montgomery421756
Out of TN407935
Madison378079
Sullivan376346
Bradley358723
Washington347651
Sevier335122
Blount334336
Maury330737
Robertson261441
Hamblen246448
Tipton236723
Dyer223732
Unassigned22063
Gibson216244
Hardeman189833
Coffee189425
Obion178822
Trousdale17758
Greene175052
Bedford170920
Fayette169225
Dickson169119
Anderson168814
McMinn164036
Loudon162311
Lawrence161820
Cumberland161025
Wayne16007
Weakley156126
Carter155633
Jefferson155521
Monroe146228
Warren143910
Lauderdale143617
Henderson141626
Hardin139720
Macon134325
Roane13027
Franklin129519
Haywood129527
Overton122717
Hawkins120925
White118814
Johnson11507
Carroll114826
Marshall113810
McNairy112927
Rhea111118
Cheatham106011
Cocke105814
Campbell103012
Bledsoe10174
Smith99113
Lake9853
Giles96936
Fentress91611
Lincoln8973
Crockett86820
Hickman80315
Henry79611
Marion7739
Chester73214
DeKalb73217
Decatur66311
Grainger6114
Grundy57011
Union5433
Claiborne5266
Polk51113
Jackson4525
Humphreys4504
Morgan4437
Houston42017
Benton4199
Unicoi4183
Cannon4152
Clay40613
Lewis4033
Scott3845
Sequatchie3462
Stewart33111
Meigs3276
Perry3082
Pickett2747
Moore2692
Van Buren2071
Hancock1193

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