One year after Georgia lawmakers passed a tough immigration law, a newspaper investigation found that many city and county governments are not in compliance. Georgia immigration law requires any employer with 500 or more employees to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of all new hires.  The law passed a year ago aims to block illegal immigrants from taking jobs from U.S. citizens and stop taxpayer support for government contractors who are not authorized to work in the United States. Parts of the law came into effect from the beginning of this year.

In all, more than 18,800 public and private employers in Georgia are enrolled to use E-Verify, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services records. However, state Labor Department officials said they can’t confirm that all businesses in Georgia are complying, because the state and federal government databases include different information, making cross-checking impossible. For private companies, the law takes effect in stages. As of Jan. 1, businesses with 500 or more employees were supposed to start using E-Verify. On July 1, the requirement will extend to employers with 100 or more employees but fewer than 500. More than 5,600 such businesses are operating in Georgia, Labor Department records show. Companies that have more than 10 workers and fewer than 100 must start using E-Verify by July 1 of next year. Smaller companies are exempt. To be licensed to operate in a city or county, companies that are subject to the law must file sworn affidavits, saying that they are in compliance.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, the author of HB 87, said he and others are monitoring the law’s implementation and “will take legislative action if necessary to carry out our intent, which is to protect Georgia’s taxpayers from the social and economic consequences of illegal immigration.” Governments employ about 16 percent of Georgia’s workers, meaning that the law’s greatest impact will be achieved through compliance by private companies.

State records show that of the 2,324 local and state government agencies tracked by the state, 1,176 did not file reports by the Dec. 31 deadline. Small businesses are exempted from the law, but it’s difficult to tell how many companies qualify for that exemption. So many agencies have failed to submit the reports that the state is preparing to send out a mass mailing this week to remind them that their state funding could be in jeopardy if they don’t comply. The lapses highlight the complexities of enforcing a law that will eventually touch tens of thousands of employers throughout the state, especially in a time when state and local governments face budget and staff cutbacks.