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E-Verify program closer to reality for Ohio contractors

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(The Center Square) – Contractors and large employers in Ohio are a step closer to being required to verify the immigration status of employees after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to require the use of E-Verify in hiring.

House Bill 327, which passed 85-6, now heads to the Senate.

E-Verify is a free internet-based program that verifies a new employee’s work permit, visa and citizenship within three to five seconds.

“This legislation gives employers the tools they need to ensure they are following the law in their employment practices,” said Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron. “Our goal is to employ a legal workforce in Ohio and provide employment opportunities to the thousands of skilled and talented Ohioans that are ready to get to work.”

Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wayne County, has also pushed the bill as a way to limit human trafficking in the state.

“Particularly in our current high-demand labor market, there are far too many instances of noncitizens and minors being taken advantage of – an illegal arrangement between an employer and an employee should be called what it actually is, let’s call it – its human trafficking and it needs to stop,” Wiggam told the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

The legislation would impact contractors engaged in state or local public works construction, nonresidential construction contractors and any employer with 75 or more employees.

Both the Ohio Contractors Association and the Associated General Contractors of Ohio oppose the bill, saying inconsistency – such as targeting general contractors and not residential contractors and requiring all construction employees but only above 75 employees in other industries to E-Verify – in the bill remain.

“As I stated previously, we do not condone the hiring of undocumented workers,” testified Chris Runyan, president of the Ohio Contractors Association. “With these questions in mind, we cannot help but think that the proponents of this bill have placed a large target on the backs of our members. The target is unwarranted and contrary to the professionalism and pride in workmanship our largely union membership brings to their work. Our membership does not deserve the punitive penalties this legislation proposes.”

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