by Julian Barton, Government Affairs Director
Home Builders Association of South Carolina

Although a federal judge has blocked parts of South Carolina’s new immigration law, sections affecting businesses will still go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel left intact a provision requiring employers to use the federal electronic database E-Verify to check workers’ eligibility.

Gergel’s ruling, though, barred the state from enforcing key parts of the law, including: having police check the immigration status of person stopped for even minor traffic offenses if they have “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally; arresting people on charges of harboring or transporting illegal immigrants; and requiring people to carry immigration documents.

Gergel also let stand provisions authorizing the Department of Public Safety to form a 10-officer immigration enforcement unit, and making it a crime for illegal immigrants to sell fake IDs.

Under the new law, businesses are required to enroll in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system “and to verify the legal status of all new employees through E-Verify within three business days.”

Failure to enroll in and use E-Verify to check out new hires will result in probation for the employer, either with suspension or revocation of the firm’s business licenses, according to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. However, LLR has promised to work with employers the first six months of the year to help them in the transition to e-verify without fines.

In addition to completing and maintaining the federal employment eligibility verification form — commonly known as the Form I-9 — all employers must within three business days after hiring a new employee verify the individual’s work authorization through the E-Verify, a free Internet-based system maintained by the federal government. Employers may no longer confirm a new employee’s employment authorization with a driver’s license or state identification card!

The database generally provides results in three to five seconds, officials say. If the information matches, the employee is eligible to work in the United States. If there’s a mismatch, E-Verify will alert the employer and the employee will be allowed to work while he or she resolves the problem. If no resolution results, the employer must rescind the job offer. 

To enroll in E-Verify, go to