The thought of immigration reform is now becoming one of public acceptance. The American people are now asking how to best comply with any potential new requirements. This is no different for America's smallest businesses - the self-employed and micro-businesses - who now believe it is good for their business and are supportive of reform. But, in a balanced and sensible way.
In March of this year, we conducted a survey of National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Members and over 77 percent indicated that immigration reform was important to their business. What we heard from respondents was that while they were supportive of reform, they wanted a bipartisan solution that is not cumbersome and allows them to easily comply with requirements. The range of responses provide us with insight into their thoughts: "We are happy to utilize e-verification systems for both part-time and full-time hires, but we don't have time or the money to outsource the verification process - suggesting we prefer the government to offer some type of simple program online or on the phone."
NASE Member and small-business owner, Stephen McNeilly, was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the issue:
Stephen McNeilly, owner of Service Proz Inc., said he uses the system, called E-Verify, to check employees at his various landscaping, maintenance and pest control businesses in Illinois and Florida. The upside: It is easy to use, he said. The problem is it can take as much as two months to get a response about a worker's status, he said.
"That is one of the glitches that is a big concern for us," Mr. McNeilly said. "When we need people, we need them quickly."
Stephen's story illustrates the findings of our survey. While he falls in the minority of the 91 percent of survey respondents who said they have never used E-Verify, his experience lends useful antidotal evidence for policymakers as they craft a new reform package.
Small firms want to comply, but it has to be easy to use. As the Wall Street Journal notes about our survey: "some 59 percent of the respondents who were self-employed or own a business with fewer than 10 workers said they believe an employment-verification system should be required for any business with full-time or part-time employees."
Our membership, as do millions of other small businesses across the country, does not want a burdensome process of compliance.
As lawmakers move forward with immigration reform, they must consider both the financial and business impact it will have on America's smallest businesses. As our research shows, we are supportive and willing to comply, but also ask our elected leaders to remember our needs as they move forward.