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: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
Calhoun14501314
Morgan14293279
Etowah13831353
Marshall12222223
Houston10567281
Elmore10061205
Limestone9960151
Cullman9664193
St. Clair9655243
Lauderdale9424241
DeKalb8830186
Talladega8223176
Walker7235277
Autauga6920108
Jackson6810112
Blount6660137
Colbert6298134
Coffee5511119
Dale4831111
Russell441138
Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
Bibb260764
Geneva249977
Marengo249764
Pickens234461
Barbour230857
Hale222977
Butler215969
Fayette212362
Henry188744
Cherokee184845
Randolph180241
Monroe177440
Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock123041
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107228
Sumter104532
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 852841

Reported Deaths: 12255
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby956561619
Davidson89355933
Knox50675635
Hamilton44280494
Rutherford43046434
Williamson28015217
Sumner24012349
Montgomery20255225
Wilson18804234
Out of TN1840797
Unassigned16998134
Sullivan16794294
Blount15490193
Bradley15032150
Washington14597245
Maury13499172
Sevier13391175
Putnam11396175
Madison11168242
Robertson9756131
Anderson8760172
Hamblen8610173
Greene7877155
Tipton7359103
Coffee6905121
Dickson6840110
Cumberland6734132
Carter6634158
Gibson6526146
McMinn650898
Bedford6506128
Roane6282105
Jefferson6211124
Loudon613069
Hawkins6077107
Lawrence593887
Monroe584095
Warren554881
Dyer5425106
Franklin515090
Fayette506877
Cheatham455355
Obion454196
Cocke450099
Lincoln435763
Rhea434875
Marshall419058
Campbell415463
Weakley412865
Giles3996100
Henderson378976
White364170
Macon361978
Carroll361683
Hardin357167
Hardeman352664
Lauderdale318944
Henry318576
Claiborne318273
Marion312347
Scott312345
Overton301161
Wayne296334
Hickman284046
McNairy282054
DeKalb279654
Smith277839
Haywood271162
Grainger262850
Morgan250139
Trousdale250122
Fentress241547
Johnson240739
Chester214351
Bledsoe214211
Polk207824
Unicoi203549
Crockett203248
Cannon192031
Union190734
Humphreys179927
Grundy179334
Lake170326
Sequatchie169829
Benton166540
Decatur158639
Lewis158126
Meigs139125
Stewart132528
Jackson132036
Clay110131
Houston109333
Perry106628
Moore101117
Van Buren84723
Pickett76024
Hancock58912

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