With immigration reform stalled in Congress, last year saw a surge in the number of laws passed by states hoping to better regulate the use foreign workers. As a result, employers with sites in multiple locations are facing an increasingly complex – if not conflicting – set of rules for immigrant labor.
The National Conference of State Legislatures issued a report last month showing a significant jump in immigration-related measures passed by states in 2013. In total, 437 laws and resolutions addressing immigration were passed by state legislatures last year, a 64 percent increase over the 267 laws and resolutions passed in 2012, the report said.
SHRM and other business groups have been pushing hard for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law, including a single, nationwide electronic employment verification system. At different points last year, it looked as though immigration reform’s time had come. At the end of June, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, by a margin of 68-32. But the bill stalled in the House, where many in the Republican majority oppose a comprehensive solution that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
According to Justin Storch, manager of agency liaison for the Council for Global Immigration, an Alexandria, Va.-based group affiliated with SHRM, the impasse on federal reform has left employers struggling to navigate the patchwork of requirements and rules that they face. “Employers would like consistency, so they’re not having to look at a variety of state laws,” he said. “We understand why some states are looking at implementing new laws, but we do think it really should be the federal government moving the ball on this issue.”