Utah Likely to Push Back E-Verify Mandate (Again)

By Jon Feere on February 28, 2014

Two facts have been missed by media outlets reporting on Utah's plan to push back the start date of the state's controversial (and unlikely) guestworker program: (1) this is the second time that Utah has delayed the guestworker program's start date, and (2) the state's E-Verify mandate is contingent on the guestworker program coming into effect, and thus will also be delayed.

Back in 2011, Utah passed the "Utah Immigration Accountability and Enforcement Act" (H.B.116), which requires businesses to use E-Verify and also creates a state-level guestworker program, among other things. As written, the E-Verify requirement does not come into effect until the guestworker program starts. The problem for Utah is that a state-level guestworker program is not something supported by federal law. Utah would have to get the federal government to craft legislation allowing for such a plan, and thus far Washington is not interested.

In the original language of the act, the guestworker program start date was 120 days after the state received the necessary green light from Washington, or July 1, 2013, which ever came sooner. CIS confirmed with an attorney who helped draft the act that Utah intended to initiate a guestworker program by July 1, 2013, even if the state did not receive support from the federal government. Obviously, Utah decided not to go it alone.

In the Spring of 2013, the Utah legislature pushed back the start date of the guestworker program by two years to July 2015, thereby delaying the contingent E-Verify mandate as well.

It was announced this week that Utah is likely going to push back the start date two more years to July 2017 as lawmakers have apparently concluded that it is unlikely Washington will allow states to run guestworker programs.

Maybe it's time for Utah to pass an E-Verify mandate that is not dependent on an untested and unlikely state-level guestworker proposal that has now been delayed twice. Not passing a stand-alone E-Verify law will suggest that state legislators were never serious about holding businesses accountable.

Currently 16 states require use of E-Verify in some form or another. Why doesn't Utah?

UPDATE: On March 29, 2014 Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law S.B. 203, delaying the state’s guestworker proposal and E-Verify mandate until July 1, 2017.