‘Sea change’ seen in employer views of E-Verify

The program gets high marks from restaurant owners, according to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association and ImmigrationWorks USA, a pro-immigration reform group that represents business interests.

Nearly 800 restaurant owners participated in the online survey. And while only 23 percent currently use E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires, nearly half of corporate-owned restaurant chains do.

Among those who participate in the program, almost 80 percent would now recommend it to other business owners.

ImmigrationWorks president Tamar Jacoby described the findings as a “sea change” in employer perceptions, with many concluding that certainty provided by the system outweighs the burden of added regulation.

“Everyone realizes that immigration reform is going to come with some red tape,” Jacoby said. “The trade off is: People are going to sleep better at night because they know their workforce is legal.”

Sweeping immigration reform legislation now under consideration in the Senate contains language requiring all companies with 5,000 employers or more to use the system within two years. Firms with 500 employees would have three years to comply, and all employers would have to participate in E-Verify within four years.

The House is considering similar standalone E-Verify legislation.

Angelo Amador, the Restaurant Association’s vice president for labor and workforce policy, said the industry support reflects a major shift over the past five years. He said law-abiding businesses want assurances that competitors cannot undercut them by hiring illegal workers for lower wages.

“We need to create a level playing field,” Amador said.

Still, he said the association would withhold final judgment until final language is adopted. He said the group was wary of changes in the amendment process and would insist on a measure that deals exclusively with E-Verify and is not loaded down with other labor enforcement provisions.