Kennewick might soon use E-Verify for new hires

August 24, 2011

By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

Kennewick might soon add E-Verify as a condition for employment and for contractors who want do work for the city.

Council members learned Tuesday night how requiring verification of eligibility to work in the U.S. could save the city money on doing background checks for new hires.

"It's a tool that can help employers comply with the law that is already on the books," said Lisa Beaton, city attorney.

Beaton led the discussion, noting that the program is for confirming employment authorization, not a test for citizenship.

"It is voluntary," she said, adding that participants fill out a form, which is checked through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Public entities using E-Verify cannot use it to screen applicants for a job, nor can it be used for current employees.

It is available only to check a newly hired person's employment eligibility after being selected for a position, Beaton explained.

The same rules apply for a city-retained contractor who is required to use E-Verify.

Beaton said the council has to decide if it wants to adopt E-Verify for city employees, and as a condition for contractors.

"The answer is yes and yes," said Councilman Bob Parks, who said he would like to see the E-Verify proposal come to the council for a vote as soon as possible.

Mayor Steve Young said he has seen how effective E-Verify is through his experience in working with the federal government through Hanford contracts.

"This has saved us a lot of time. It has been quite a savings for our company," he said.

One of the advantages is that there is a $5 charge to use E-Verify, which simplifies background checks.

Young questioned each council member for a yes or no.

"Looks like we have the nod to go forward," he told Beaton, who said there will be several steps to take before getting E-Verify before the council.

The council will have to approve a couple of new resolutions and an ordinance amending public contracts, she said.