Lacking a national policy on unauthorized immigration, U.S. lawmakers are increasingly relying on E-verify - an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees.

Without comprehensive immigration reform on a national basis, however, individual states are enacting their own legislation to deal with the issue. The North Carolina General Assembly last week passed a bill requiring all employers with more than 25 employees to use the E-verify electronic system to verify the eligibility of all new employees.

North Carolina pork producers are evaluating the new law. “Many of our large production companies here in North Carolina are already utilizing E-verify as part of their hiring practices,” says Deborah Johnson, chief executive officer, North Carolina Pork Council. “However, we are concerned about enacting mandatory E-verify without comprehensive immigration reform at the national level.” 

The effect of the E-verify measure on hiring pork production employees in the state is unclear. “The labor situation remains the same as it’s been for several years,” says Johnson. “I would say that the vast majority of North Carolina producers do not employ 25 people in their hog operations. I’m sure some of our production companies with smaller numbers of employees will be affected by this new law.”

Hiring production workers remains a challenge for many U.S. pork operations. “While we hear media reports on high unemployment rates, we still see a need for quality production employees,” adds Johnson.

“The National Pork Producers Council opposes any knowing and willing use of undocumented immigrants,” according to a statement issued on the subject. “NPPC supports E-Verify as long as it’s not too burdensome or too costly for employers and as long as employers aren’t held liable for hiring illegal workers based on information obtained from the E-Verify system.”

NPPC does not believe that E-Verify will make it more difficult to find and hire employees.

The North Carolina bill includes a delayed phase-in period to allow employers time to comply as well as an exemption for seasonal employees. All employers must retain E-verify records for the duration of employment of the employee and for one year afterwards. The bill also mandates that counties and cities must use E-verify to verify that new employees are authorized to work in the U.S.