Tennessee Senator: “The Federal Government Has Failed” on Immigration

Knoxville (WVLT) - A number of states and local governments have held off on passing their own immigration crackdowns, waiting for federal action.

But as Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd found out, some have run out of patience already.

The issue is, and has been, whether state and local governments have the authority to pass and enforce their own immigration laws. Some say, they're simply adding teeth to what's already on the books.

“I absolutely think that they should have to prove that they're legal,” says Fountain City resident Amy Smith.

Depending on which poll, between two thirds and three-quarters of folk surveyed believe all employers ought to have to guarantee they're not hiring illegals.

“Frankly, the federal government has failed, gotten an F on this issue.” That, State Senator Tim Burchett says, is why Tennessee lawmakers have gone after employers, and the so-called smugglers who supply the illegal labor.

And may explain why commissioners in Gwinnett County, Georgia, have taken it upon themselves, not only to make all county contractors prove their workers are legal, but to allow auditors on-site, without warning to check up.

“I think they're bringing to light laws that have always been on the books,” Knoxville lawyer Anita Patel says that's why she has no worries that states and counties could overstep their authority.

Gwinnett County requires its contractors to fire any illegals, all violators reported to Homeland Security.

“My dad owns his own business, and I don't see him hiring someone that was in this country illegally,” says Smith.

“Somebody could have a false identification, and you open yourself up for all kinds of liability unknowingly,” says Senator Burchett.

“There are safe harbor defenses for employers, in the event that its found that the document is fraudulent,” says Patel.

But if contractors still find new rules too complicated or costly, “I'd tell he or she that they probably ought not be doing business with the government then,” Burchett says.

We've called a number of East Tennessee county and city governments.

Of the three who called back, Knoxville, Knox County and Anderson County, none require that you be able to prove that all your employees are legally entitled to work, to get or keep city or county business.

You do have to provide social security or federal tax ID numbers.

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