Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Illegal-alien law snags S.C. businesses (Savannah Morning News)

Illegal-alien law snags S.C. businesses
Posted: February 9, 2010 - 12:15am

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A handful of area businesses have been cited for violating the new illegal-immigration law, following 89 audits performed last month by the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The citations were not for hiring illegal immigrants, but for failure to confirm the legal status of new hires.

In Bluffton, ARSC Service Corp and CareCore National were flagged and assessed an $850 fine. In Hilton Head, Hargray Communications and TidePointe, A Classic Residence, were each cited and fined $850. In Hardeeville, Key Nissan was dinged for non-compliance and assessed $5,900 in penalties.

"As with any change in a process, we had a few glitches in the early stages," said Bobby Kisselback, vice president of NRAM Holdings LLC, parent company of Key Nissan in Hardeeville.

"We've since developed a procedure to ensure 100 percent compliance with the new rules and regulations."

For each of the businesses, agency records indicate the penalty was waived because it was a first-time infraction, and the problem was corrected immediately. They were among nearly three-dozen businesses that were cited last month, according to LLR records.

At Hargray, a key employee was out of the office due to a family emergency and missed the five-day timeframe in which to comply with the verification process, said Sarah Vandervort, employee relations manager for the company.

In 2008, state lawmakers were consumed with cracking down on undocumented workers in the Palmetto State, with some pointing to crimes that had been committed by suspected illegal aliens and the fears that they were benefiting from public assistance.

But these days the issue doesn't come up. The state's record unemployment has dominated debates, and in previous months, lawmakers were focused on the governor's marital transgressions and possible impeachment.

Nevertheless, LLR has been steadily auditing businesses and processing tips from the public about possible violators.

Jim Knight, the agency's director of communications, said penalties depend on the size of the business and the employer's good-faith efforts in complying with the law.

Beginning in July of last year, employers with 100 or more workers had to check the legal status of new employees within five days using a driver's license from a list of accepted states or the federal E-Verify program.

In July of this year, businesses with fewer than 100 employees will also be required to comply with the law, the S.C. Illegal Immigration Reform Act, which became effective in June of 2008.

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