System used to check workers’ legal status unavailable during shutdown

Jan 7, 2019, 5:00 PM | Updated: 7:28 pm

PHOENIX — A government-run system that verifies workers’ legal status is unavailable due to the partial federal government shutdown.

The E-Verify website, when visited Monday, stated: “Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed. E- Verify and E-Verify services are unavailable.”

The shutdown has been in place since Dec. 22, as President Donald Trump and Congress wrangle over his demand to fund a border wall in any spending agreement.

“The government shutdown has been difficult on the E-Verify system,” Julie Pace, an employment lawyer at The Cavanagh Law Firm in Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

“What happens is employers are still obligated to do their fully completed I-9 form when they hire people … but they are having the problem for those companies who use E-Verify and have used E-Verify to date, they can’t do it at this point in time.”

Pace said Arizona is one of the states that requires employers to use E-Verify when hiring employees.

“So it makes it difficult for (companies) and their HR teams and their owners who are following procedures to now stop their procedures, not be able to do a second verification of their employee’s identification and ability to work, so they’re having to stop with the first line which is the I-9 form,” she said.

Pace said the system’s unavailability is an obstacle for companies that need to fill positions or ramp up hiring for a new project.

“I think companies have to continue to hire — they can’t stop just because the government stops,” she said.

However, she said companies like defense contractors that need full background checks including E-Verify to hire someone are unable to bring on new employees while the system is down.

Pace said the system’s unavailability also affects workers who were once on “do not rehire” lists based on immigration status, but have since since become legally able to work.

In those cases, she said, companies would normally run the person through E-Verify to check their updated status, but now companies have to deal directly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to straighten it out.

Pace said once E-Verify is back online, companies can choose to run their new hires through the system retroactively, or they can begin to verify new employees from that moment on.

“The longer the time period is, the harder it is for a company to go backwards and do that. They’ve already put people through training and they’ve already got them through the I-9 process, so they should be legal to work, but they have to make those decisions,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report. 

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System used to check workers’ legal status unavailable during shutdown