SALT LAKE CITY — A state website created to certify that businesses are checking the immigration status of new employees doesn't verify whether the companies are actually complying with the law.
The Verify Utah website went live this week to publicly display who is using the federal E-Verify system, which cross-checks names and other information against federal databases.
However, the state Department of Commerce says it isn't checking to see if businesses are actually using E-Verify when they register with Verify Utah.
"We're not certifying – they're certifying," department spokeswoman Jennifer Bolton said. "By them going through and putting their information in, they're certifying that they, the business, has completed the federal E-Verify."
The Utah website only requires businesses to type in their company name, city and the name of the person filling out the form. A $3 registration fee is required every two years.
The state law creating the website doesn't specify that officials are supposed to verify that businesses are telling the truth. It only says employers can voluntarily register with the Department of Commerce "certifying that the private employer is in compliance."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, called the website a "great incentive" while it was under consideration by legislators.
The idea behind the move is that businesses who register with the state will be looked upon as good corporate citizens.
Messages left with Buttars were not immediately returned.
Tim Counts, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said it's difficult for states to easily know who is actually using the program and who isn't.
For example, some companies with employees in Utah might access E-Verify from headquarters in another state. In addition, businesses using the program frequently change.
As of June 26, about 2,600 Utah-based businesses had registered with E-Verify, while the total number of work sites in the state to use E-Verify was about 5,400.
Starting Thursday, all Utah businesses with 15 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify, although there is no penalty for not doing so.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert nearly called lawmakers into a special session to clarify that using E-Verify is voluntary. But the move to water down the bill was scrapped when debate over an immigration law in neighboring Arizona heated up.