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South Carolina braces for hurricane -- and new immigration law

In June, South Carolina passed a new immigration law called the South Carolina Immigration Reform Act. The act requires business owners across the state to comply with strict new immigration verification regulations or suffer harsh penalties. Although the law does not go into effect until January 1 of next year, the Office of Immigrant Worker Compliance is urging employers to start working toward compliance now.

Jim Knight, from the state Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation and the administrator of the Office of Immigrant Worker Compliance, believes that South Carolina's immigration laws are now some of the toughest in the country. If employers do not comply, they could lose the right to operate their businesses.

Under the new law, South Carolina employers will be required to register with E-Verify, a federal, Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Other states have required certain categories of businesses to register, but South Carolina's registration requirement applies across the board to all employers.

Critics of the new immigration law worry about the impact on workers. Affected businesses complain that the E-Verify process will place an additional burden on the hiring process, which is especially troublesome when businesses are being asked to hire more workers. Immigrant and minority advocates fear that some employers will avoid hiring anyone with an accent or who looks foreign, even though they would be able to provide a visa or green card if requested.

According to Knight, however, businesses will be required to verify all new hires, not just those suspected of being immigrants. Knight also counters that it does not take much time to verify an employee's immigration status, estimating that the process takes between two and three minutes, on average. E-Verify is also a free service to employers.

Source: SC Now, "State warns businesses to prep for new immigration law," John Sweeney, Aug. 23, 2011

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