Rhode Island Dances with E-Verify Bill Again in H. 5236

Maybe because of its small size or its historical first (as one of the 13 original colonies) to declare independence from the Crown, but the great state of Rhode Island keeps emerging in E-Verify headlines. You’ll recall back in 2008, then-Governor Don Carcieri issued an Executive Order Number 08-01 requiring all employers in the state to enroll in E-Verify.  The Executive Order was rescinded in January 2011 by current Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Since then, all has been fairly quiet on the eastern front. In a turn of events that seem to spell drama in the Ocean State, State Representatives hinted in early January that things may be changing.  The speculation was confirmed on January 31, 2013 when State Representatives Palumbo, Malik, Trillo, Cost and Jacquard introduced House Bill 5236 in the State’s General Assembly. House Bill 5236 would impose a mandatory E-Verify enrollment and use upon all employers who employ three (3) or more employees in the state of Rhode Island.  The following employers under this bill would be exempt: the federal government, employers by another state, or another “political subdivision of Rhode Island or another state.”  The following phases for participation in E-Verify would go into effect if the bill were to be passed into law:

  1. On or before January 1, 2014: Employers with 200 or more employees required to participate;
  2. On or before July 1, 2014: Employers with 50-199 employees required to participate; and,
  3. On or before January 1, 2015: Employers with 3-49 employees required to participate.

Although the bill provides mechanisms for employers who enroll in E-Verify to notify the State, the only “penalty” (thus far) for failure to enroll in E-Verify appears to be getting referred by the State’s Department of Labor to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for non-compliance. The lack of a lengthy or substantive penalty provision in the bill is quite telling.  First, the 2011 rescission of Executive Order 2008-01 by Governor Chafee was a campaign promise fulfilled, based on the premise that the Order had not helped to ease the states’ financial burdens.  The absence of a hefty penalty provision may also signal the legislature’s willingness to compromise in order to get the law passed.  Finally, the bill may also reflect the reality that the state itself lacks funding to finance an enforcement team – a reality often faced by other states that have imposed obligatory E-Verify laws.

What if the bill were passed?  Would employers in Rhode Island take note?  We’ll have to wait and see.  Until then, stay up-to-date by subscribing to the I-9 and E-Verify Blog by LawLogix or learn more about Guardian, our I-9 and E-Verify Compliance System.