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: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22720374
Mobile14405314
Tuscaloosa10066137
Montgomery9820196
Madison907894
Shelby715361
Lee646165
Baldwin644369
Marshall431048
Calhoun416059
Etowah412249
Morgan400033
Houston365532
DeKalb325428
Elmore312852
St. Clair283842
Limestone273630
Walker269993
Talladega259135
Cullman231024
Lauderdale212540
Jackson205515
Autauga202130
Franklin201731
Colbert193330
Russell19053
Blount187325
Dallas186027
Chilton182632
Escambia171428
Coffee16829
Covington166629
Dale163851
Chambers133043
Pike131313
Tallapoosa129587
Clarke127317
Marion105029
Butler99840
Barbour9969
Marengo98222
Winston90613
Geneva8447
Lawrence81131
Pickens81117
Randolph80514
Bibb80114
Hale74830
Cherokee72314
Clay72212
Lowndes70228
Henry6386
Bullock63717
Monroe63610
Washington62312
Crenshaw59830
Perry5816
Wilcox55912
Fayette55713
Conecuh55613
Cleburne5327
Macon53020
Sumter46821
Lamar4595
Choctaw38712
Greene34016
Coosa1993
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 235861

Reported Deaths: 2970
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby34739553
Davidson30155328
Knox1208187
Hamilton11289104
Rutherford11165107
Williamson670751
Sumner5715107
Wilson445553
Putnam423054
Montgomery393351
Out of TN376135
Unassigned37554
Madison366579
Bradley344722
Sullivan332146
Sevier322421
Washington318244
Blount317032
Maury311236
Robertson251040
Hamblen236543
Tipton223522
Gibson207838
Dyer207126
Hardeman180432
Coffee178320
Trousdale17447
Obion166420
Bedford160620
Anderson159613
Fayette159622
Dickson159119
Greene157551
Wayne15697
Loudon156610
McMinn154232
Cumberland153624
Lawrence150518
Jefferson148320
Weakley145325
Carter143932
Monroe138227
Henderson137325
Warren136810
Lauderdale134517
Hardin133619
Macon126924
Franklin123416
Roane12247
Haywood120026
Overton115211
White112214
Hawkins111724
Johnson11157
Carroll110724
McNairy109626
Marshall10638
Rhea105916
Bledsoe9944
Cheatham98211
Lake9763
Smith95412
Cocke95212
Giles91134
Campbell8997
Fentress8698
Lincoln8302
Crockett80221
Henry75310
Hickman74513
Chester71514
Marion7159
DeKalb68616
Decatur64511
Grainger5464
Grundy52510
Union5142
Claiborne5066
Polk47613
Jackson4225
Humphreys4194
Morgan4167
Benton3969
Houston39215
Cannon3902
Clay37913
Unicoi3732
Lewis3582
Scott3444
Sequatchie3304
Stewart3128
Meigs2975
Perry2531
Pickett2505
Moore2492
Van Buren1951
Hancock1123

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