photo collage.png resized Delgado Cervantes

SPRINGFIELD – As an advocate for immigrant employees, State Senator Javier Cervantes and State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado announced their initiative to protect marginalized workers from unfair enforcement action is now one step closer to becoming law.

“It is all too common for immigrant employees, whose last names may be input with slight differences in records such as a dash in place of a space, or a letter with and without an accent, to be flagged during the work verification process,” said Cervantes (D-Chicago). “This simple bureaucratic error can be detrimental to their livelihood, so adjusting this system to allow workers more time to correct these slight mistakes is a commonsense decision with massive positive impacts on marginalized workers in this state.”

Federal immigration law requires employers to verify the legal work status of their employees through the E-Verify system. E-Verify compares information from an employee’s I-9 Form to records available to the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to confirm eligibility. If discrepancies are found, immigrant workers have the possibility of receiving a “no match” letter for a variety of reasons, including instances where the individual changed their name due to marriage. Many employers terminate employees upon receiving this notice, even though they could be legally working in the United States.

Senate Bill 508 would prevent employers from imposing work authorization verification requirements that are greater than those required by federal law and would require employers to give employees time to correct documentation discrepancies. The new legislation would require employers, upon finding a discrepancy, to inform the employee that a federal or state agency has notified the employer and the time period the employee has to contest the information. The employee would be given an explanation of the discrepancy and retain the right to have a representative present for meetings related to employment verification. Employers would be barred from taking any adverse action against the employee based on the notification.

This initiative would also require employers to notify each employee of upcoming inspections of employment records from federal entities such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within five business days of the employer receiving notice – both in English and any language commonly used in the workplace. Upon receipt of the results of an employment records inspection, employees would retain the right to correct discrepancies within a designated time period and the right to have a representative present during any meetings with the employer.

“In too many other states, E-Verify is being abused. In Illinois, we are moving in the opposite direction. I am proud to join Sen. Cervantes in passing long needed protections for all workers,” said State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado (D-Chicago). “We’ve been working on this initiative for years, gathering information and hammering out language that addresses the concerns of those we want to protect from the misuse of this service. By establishing strict best practices for using E-Verify, we can ensure that workers and employers are accountable for correcting documentation and using this service as it is intended.”

“Workers in our state, especially immigrant employees working in an environment where rules are potentially outlined in their second language, deserve more protection from being taken advantage of, and more grace in the bureaucratic processes,” said Cervantes. “This legislation will help protect employees working legally in Illinois who may be fearful of their job security, and I am glad my colleagues have supported it.”

Senate Bill 508 passed the House Wednesday. It now heads to the governor’s desk.