Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who's on first? States Laws Create Compliance Chaos

The Sunday Gazette Mail reported that despite the state-driven legislation to address the problem of unauthorized workers, things are slowing in state capitols this spring, with many propposals "watered down, delayed or outright defeated."  But amidst the debates, employer confusion continues to mount.



The article, an incisive piece written by Daniel C. Vock and published on April 13th, does a fine job of painting an overall picture on this important trend we here at i9 Advantage monitor on a daily basis.  (Believe me, keeping up with federal rules is a full-time job; trying to keep up with potentially 50 contradicting sets of state rules is a nightmare, but that's what we do!)



Mr. Vock reported that three states' "get-tough" proposals died in committee -- good news for Indiana, Kentucky, and Nebraska employers.  I won't get into the sheer absurdity of some of those proposals (e.g., shuttering business found to have unauthorized workers, etc.) but at least common sense prevailed.



A new Utah law, hammered out between the legislature and pro-employer Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman's won't take effect until 2009...a safe timeline given the fact that clear federal guidelines almost certainly will be imposed after the new President takes power.



Mississippi, of course, passed its legislation which takes away businesses licenses and state contracts for violators, but THEIR Republican Governor, Haley Barbour, is challenging the legislature to soften the rougher edges...talk about a state which CANNOT afford an exodus of employers...sheesh.



The article further reported on the hodge-podge of drivers' license-related legislation...still all over the place and, IMHO, as constitutionally flawed as the rest of this stuff.



According to Mr. Vock, "The year's legislative sessions are far from over, and immigration remains a hotly debated issue in numerous states where lawmakers are still meeting, including Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, Rhode Island and South Carolina. But even in those states, far- reaching proposals - from barring undocumented students from attending public universities in Missouri to mandatory identification cards for all Alabama workers - have run into trouble."



And get this quote:



"Last year, 46 states enacted 194 new immigration-related laws - triple the number from the previous year, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The group hasn't released numbers for 2008 yet."



And you wonder why employers are totally confused; even the largest industry leaders call us DAILY for clarification.   Listen up, Washington:  If a Fortune 500 employer with a team of 30 compliance attorneys can't figure out what you want, HOW ON EARTH do you expect the great mass of U.S. employers to comply?



Sadly, the article quotes the irrepressible Mark Krikorian, executive director for the "Center for Immigration Studies", a deceptively named organization known for its vehement, across-the-board anti-immigration agenda. The quote:



"If I were a state legislator, I'd probably be more aggressive. But I can't say this is some sort of surrender to illegal immigration."



If Mr. Kirkorian were more aggressive, this Cuban-American U.S. citizen would be chopping cane somewhere in Matanzas right about now...(-:  Xenophobia gussed up as border control never fooled me.



I'll keep you posted, but for now be glad that at least some states are starting to understand that fragmented efforts to control what is indeed a national issue will only add to the chaos employers already face in compliance.



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