Indiana Senator Tackles Illegal Immigration in Indiana… Again

By: Shelley R. McCoy

For the third year in a row, State Senator Mike Delph – R-Carmel, has introduced a bill targeting employers of illegal immigrants.  During the last two meetings of the General Assembly, Sen. Delph authored bills which would have prohibited any “person from knowingly employing an unauthorized alien.”  The punishment for employing illegal immigrants would have been in the form of revocation or suspension of licenses or the termination of a public contract for services.  Both of those bills, however, were not successful.  This year, Sen. Delph is approaching the topic a little differently.  His changed approach just might prove to be successful.

Senate Bill 213 focuses on government contracts and would require contractors and subcontractors doing business with the state or any political subdivision to certify that they have verified the legal status of their employees using E-Verify.  E-Verify is a free federal program operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.  The online database allows employers to compare I-9 forms and the associated documentation with Social Security numbers to verify the legal status of employees and potential employees.  If an employer is found to be in violation of the verification requirements, the contractor or subcontractor will have 30 days to “remedy” the violation.  In other words, the employer must verify the legal status of its employees if it has not already done so, or terminate the employees who are in the United States illegally.  If after 30 days, the employer is still in violation, the government “shall terminate the public contract for services.”  There is a clause, however, which allows the contract to remain in tact if termination “would be detrimental to the public interest.”

Since September 8, 2009, federal contractors have been subject to the same certification rules and are required to use E-Verify to confirm the legal status of employees.  Indiana is merely attempting to impose at the state level what is already required of federal contract employers.

Although the proposed law would impose an additional obligation on state contractors, it does not appear to be overly burdensome.  To prepare, however, contractors who regularly do business with the state may want to begin reviewing employee I-9 Forms to determine whether any issues are present.

The bill emerged from the Senate with a favorable result and is now in the hands of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Interstate and International Cooperation.  The House has until March 3 to approve or amend the bill.  If the bill passes during session, it will be effective July 1, 2010.