WASHINGTON – Following the US Supreme Court’s decision last week to uphold Arizona’s immigration law that cracks down on employers, Congress and state legislatures are considering ways to expand the use of the federal E-Verify system, predicts the National Restaurant Association.

On May 24, the high court affirmed that federal immigration laws do not preempt states from passing stricter controls on employers. At issue was a tough anti-immigration bill Arizona enacted in 2007 that allows the state to revoke business licenses for employers found to have knowingly hired employees unauthorized to work in the US. Arizona law requires most Arizona employers to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the work eligibility of new employees.

However, the US Chamber of Commerce challenged the law, claiming it was preempted by federal immigration law. The Chamber further argued because federal law makes the E-Verify program voluntary, a state cannot mandate it.

But the US Supreme Court held that Arizona's license-revocation law falls within the authority that Congress chose to leave for the states. The court also said states are not restricted from making the E-Verify program mandatory.

As a result, the high court's ruling is expected to increase the focus on E-Verify use at the federal and state levels. The NRA is working with members of Congress on creating one federal employment verification system to avoid ending up with a patchwork of employment verification laws at the state and local level. Although the use of E-Verify is mandated in Arizona, at one point it was forbidden in Illinois.

"The NRA believes employers must know with certainty what their responsibilities are under employment verification laws — regardless of where they are located," says Angelo Amador, NRA’s vice president, labor and workforce policy.

To date, five states have passed bills to mandate E-Verify use for all or most employers: Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah. Many other states require state contractors or state agencies to use the system.