A new piece of legislation would require all Missouri-based employers to use a federal verification system to ensure that employees are legal residents or face steep fines and even business license suspensions.

Last week, state Representative Mark Parkinson (R-St.Charles) introduced House Bill 235, a legislative measure that would effectively change the laws regarding work authorization in Missouri. It mandates any employer – public or private – to use “E-Verify,” a federal program operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that can “verify the work authorization of newly hired employees pursuant to federal law,” the bill’s language reads.

The legislative push comes just a month after President Barack Obama signed an executive order for immigration reform which, he says, can revamp the nation’s “broken immigration system” by allowing undocumented immigrants to gain work authorization.

See also: Revamped immigration system could help employers in war for talent

Obama’s Nov. 20 proposal will supposedly help expand work authorization for high-skilled workers who are awaiting their green card. It will also allow undocumented parents of U.S. citizens, who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years, to “temporarily stay in the U.S.” by passing a background check and paying taxes.

The President acknowledged that “business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less,” while noting he will “make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.”

Parkinson was unavailable for comment on the Missouri proposal, but said in a Dec. 15 statement – the same day his bill was pre-filed in the House – that the legislation hopes to solve immigration problems at the state level. Meanwhile, he would also address the President’s past executive order as effectively ignoring the rule of the law.

“We will only be able to solve our immigration problems when we make the legal option more attractive and accessible,” noted Parkinson. “That’s something only the federal government can do. But there are options available for state governments, and that is why I am introducing this bill today. It is a fair bill that does not punish the immigrant coming here in chase of a dream. It punishes the businesses that profit from rampant abuses of the law.”

See alsoImmigration reform needed to avoid ‘H-1B casualties,’ negative business impacts

If passed, the law will be effective on Oct. 1, 2015. It would require all Missouri employers to use E-Verify or face as much as $100,000 in fines or loss of business licenses for up to 30 days.

But, the AAIM Employers’ Association, a group that assists more than 1,600 employers throughout Missouri and Illinois with various HR and management challenges, does not completely agree with the bill’s extensive fines and suspensions of business licenses. Phil Brandt, president and CEO of the AAIM Employers’ Association, says that it “completely supports the process of hiring people that have the right and who have earned the right to be employed legally,” but adds: “What I’m not in favor of in this particular bill is the mass fines and penalties to businesses, as it relates to suspension of business licenses.”

In July, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners Background Screening Credentialing Council announced that the AAIM Employers’ Association will be formally recognized as BSCC-Accredited. According to Brandt, the association is the “region’s leading provider of background checks” – the only accredited firm in the state of Missouri. Brandt says that most employers are just looking for a methodology and a system to figure out their workforce’s background and employment status.

“We deploy that process today, and teach employers how to do that,” says Brandt, noting that employers are not looking for more legislation.

There is no scheduled date for when the House Bill 235 will appear on the state’s House calendar.   

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