The number of Tennessee businesses using E-Verify is way up. It’s a federal online database that checks if someone is in the US legally. In 2007, about 400 Tennessee businesses used it. Today, over 4,000 are signed up. There are two reasons E-Verify use is on the rise. First, the federal government is auditing employment records like never before. Also, states surrounding Tennessee have passed tough laws that require employers to check their workers’ immigration status.
Jeff Bates works at TA Staffing, a temp agency. He’s been using E-Verify since it started. It’s also a selling point when he’s recruiting businesses to hire his temp workers.
“You know, if 10 people are walking in the door and applying each day and they’re not eligible for employment in the US, then why are they wasting their time with those 10 candidates?”
Out of every 500 names he runs through E-Verify, Bates says only one will come back as being in the country illegally.
E-Verify use is still optional in Tennessee. State legislators tried to require businesses to adopt it. Instead, they passed a watered down law that only requires businesses to keep copies of a driver’s license, passport, or immigration documents.
Some Businesses Weary
The list of Tennessee businesses using E-Verify includes heavy hitters like FedEx and Vanderbilt as well as mom and pop small businesses. State legislators will push next year to make E-Verify use mandatory, but some businesses owners still weary of it.
Laura Creekmore hates paper. Her small business does most of its work online—from project management to paying the bills.
“So, it seemed silly to me that I was continuing to keep track of, literally, pieces of paper that showed whether or not my employees were eligible to work.”
She signed up for E-Verify about a year ago. Used to taking care of business online, Creekmore thought it would be simple. Not so much, she says.
“When I got done signing up, they said ‘oh we’ll send you a welcome kit in the mail and when you get that, you can go online and start using this.’ And I thought, ‘well, that’s kinda goofy.’”
She thought she could use the system to verify her current staff, but it only works with new employees. When she got around to making a new hire, Creekmore was so frustrated that she didn’t even bother with E-Verify.
The Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business says reviews are mixed. Some business owners love it, but others find it time consuming. The group also says it can be a challenge for businesses in rural areas.