Verify: Why doesn't Colorado require its contractors to use E-Verify?

Colorado tried it, but found it too much of a cumbersome pain to use.

VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS

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THE QUESTION

A viewer emailed 9NEWS asking about Colorado’s participation – or lack thereof -- in the E-Verify program.

For those who don’t know, E-Verify is the federal government system that compares the information you give an employer to prove you’re legal to work in the United States against records from the Social Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security and Department of State.

Here’s what Nita wrote:

“Saw the piece on whether or not those cleaning the Capitol building at night are illegals. The verdict was that they are legal because of I-9 documentation. I am not among those who want to build a wall but would contend that, unless the E-verify system is used by employers, many could be illegal. Forged documents can be quite good … I am surprised that the State of Colorado would not require contractors to use E-Verify.”

WHAT WE FOUND

The first question about the people who clean the Capitol can be answered by saying they are all state employees.

Colorado requires all its employees to pass an E-Verify check.

For an answer to Nita’s second question about state contractors, we took a trip down memory lane and listened to a committee hearing from 2008.

The hearing was about a bill to relax the state’s requirement that contractors and subcontractors working for state and local governments had to run their employees through E-Verify.

The bill, known as SB08-193, passed and became law.

 Here’s what we learned by listening to the recording.

Colorado lawmakers held a special session in 2006 on immigration. One of the laws passed that session created the E-Verify requirement for companies contracting with public entities.

A couple of months after that law passed local governments and public universities started running into problems.

“That was the time state contracts were coming up for renewal or being renegotiated,” Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration division director Adrienne Benavidez said.

Large, national and multi-national companies balked at the idea.

“It’s optional whether you use E-Verify or not, but once you use E-Verify you have to use it for all your employees. You can’t pick and choose … ,” Sen. Andy McElhany said during the 2008 committee hearing. “And their response has been to simply say we can’t do this; we don’t want to do this. Colorado is not a big enough customer for us to change our policy, so we just won’t do business in Colorado.”

That’s what happened to the University of Colorado after two months of negotiation with Oracle.

“Oracle refused to participate; refused to provide services because they refused to participate in the E-Verify program,” University of Colorado attorney Jeremy Hueth said.

And a representative from the City of Colorado Springs Utilities said the law would cost them $12 million over the course of a 30-year bond.

“If we have very limited competition -- just two firms who are willing to provide this for us -- then we would expect that over time we would see an increase in fees,” said Edward Easterlin, who was the company’s chief planning and finance officer at the time.

The state also delayed renegotiating its contract for servicing its 529 college savings program -- even though the renegotiation could have lowered fees.

“But if they amend the contract they then have to comply with E-Verify, and they would rather not do that,” attorney Dee Wisor said. “Coloradans are paying a higher cost than they would have to be otherwise.”

So in 2008, lawmakers in both parties voted overwhelmingly to relax the rules on companies who work with state and local governments.

The law gave contractors the option of using E-Verify or a Colorado Department of Labor and Employment program.

The state program requires companies to affirm that they have “examined the legal work status” of any new hire and “have not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien.” This affirmation gets included with the public contract or renewal.

CDLE can’t tell us how many companies have been caught knowingly providing incorrect information because it doesn’t get the forms back.

They get filed with the agency or government with whom the company has a contract.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s website says it publishes the “names of vendors using contractors who knowingly employ illegal aliens to perform work on any public contracts for services for the State of Colorado.”

When you click to see the list, you’ll get a blank page.

So far, the Secretary of State hasn’t published the name of a single company caught violating this provision.

BOTTOM LINE

People in the cleaning crew at the Capitol are state employees who go through the E-Verify process.

Contractors who hire people who do work for the state don’t have to use E-Verify. They use a state program and as far as we know no one has been caught cheating. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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