State regulators enforcing a new state immigration law have agreed to give businesses at least three days notice before inspections and make other changes after employers objected to practices they said might have been overzealous.
The changescame after a group of businesses and lawyers led by theS.C. Chamber of Commerce met with regulators in August to discusstheir concerns about theS.C. Illegal Immigration Reform Act, which took effect July 1, said Melissa Azallion, a Hilton Head Island immigration lawyer and partner in the Nexsen Pruet firm.
"They have heard our concerns," Azallion said. "They have reacted positively."
For now, the law applies only to employers with at least 100 employees -- about 2,500 of the state's more than 100,000 employers, said Jim Knight, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation, which enforces the law.
It requires those businesses to check the status of potential employees by using either the federal E-Verify system or a drivers license from an approved state.
Businesses with fewer than 100 employees must comply by July 1, 2010.
Notice of inspections brings South Carolina regulators in line with their federal counterparts, who also provide three days notice, Azallion said. The state law had left the matter of notice up to interpretation, she said.
The state law does not require employers to provide I-9 forms, although local and federal regulators can still ask for them, she said.
Employers often volunteered I-9s when the state's audits began, but regulators have agreed not to inspect them, Knight said.
Some observers also objected to the state investigating the status ofemployees who were hired before the law went into effect.
Knight said the state continues to investigate some workers hired before July 1, although he said regulators' focus is on those hired after that date if employers sign a new form affirming they have notknowinglyhired an employee unauthorized to work in the United States.
"With that affirmation, we don't have to audit prior to June 1," he said. "If you can't sign that affirmation, then we go ahead and do a random employee audit."
Otis Rawl, president and CEO of theS.C. Chamber of Commerce, said his group is confident state regulators are now complying with the law.
"Without a doubt, I think they've brought an equitable position back to the table for all of us," Rawl said. "We're satisfied, and we just want to comply."
Knight thanked businesses for their cooperation during the transition, and Azallion said she is pleased the state was willing to listen to the businesses and lawyers affected.
"Hopefully, that will continue as additional issues pop up," she said.