Proposed state legislation is being characterized by some as potentially forcing businesses to "police" illegal immigration.
The legislation, proposed by state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, would essentially require businesses to use the federal E-Verify computer check system to see if employees are legally in the country. As a consequence of hiring illegal immigrants, a business could lose its license to operate in the state for up to six months.
"We favor a comprehensive federal approach to dealing with immigration as opposed to states taking piecemeal action," said Dave Adkisson, president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. "Especially if it forces employers to be part of law enforcement in verifying employees," the chamber is not in favor, he said.
Rodney Rogers, chairman of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, is also president of Stewart-Richey Construction. Rogers said he expects about 2 percent of his company's work force are immigrants. The company already thoroughly checks the status of its employees.
After a person is hired, and not before, all employers must ask for two forms of identification, such as a driver's license, Social Security card, passport, work visa or an I-9 form that shows the prospective employee is in the country legally. The information is sent to the E-Verify system, which then lets an employer know if the documents are legitimate.
"But we shouldn't be required to police our borders," Rogers said. "It's just too much."
Rogers said immigrant employees are a valuable resource in the construction industry.
"But I am a strong believer that they should be legal," he said.
Similar legislation was approved earlier this year in the House, which had been filed by Democrats, but it failed in the Senate. It would have taken penalties a step further by requiring that any company found to have unauthorized aliens be suspended from obtaining public agency contracts for five years.
"This is yet another way to make sure that employees working in Kentucky are in the U.S. legally while employed on projects either funded by public or private funds," Lee said in a news release. "It is unfair to those firms who hire legal U.S. citizens to have companies that use illegal aliens to profit from doing business in the commonwealth."
Lee said the legislation is similar to that approved in Arizona in 2007.
Companies that use the E-Verify system aren't considered at fault if their employees are found to be illegal.