by Max Brantley
This is kind of inside-bureaucracy baseball, but I'd like to credit the Arkansas attorney general's office for what appears to be a common-sense official opinion on the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission's interest in questioning workers about their immigration status on a piece of agency paperwork.
In short, says the a.g.: if the fear is that this document is being misused as proof of legal entry (which seems a stretch to me) the state need not get into the immigration enforcement business. It can make clear on the document that it does not constitute proof of legal residency.
The summary of the opinion:
Requestor: Bell, A. Watson
Chair, Workers' Compensation
Opinion: Pursuant to A.C.A. 11-9-402, the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission issues a Certificate of Non-Coverage(CNC) to an applicant who properly completes the application form. There is a concern that the CNC, once granted, is being used or interpreted as a form of legal ID for persons who are in fact illegal immigrants and thus not eligible for employment in the United States. The Commission is therefore considering adding a question to the Affidavit for Certificate of Non-Coverage regarding the applicant's residency status, and has inquired as to the legality of such action.
RESPONSE: There is no law specifically preventing the Commission from questioning CNC applicants regarding their residency status. But because the Commission has no recognized role in immigration enforcement, I believe such a question may be outside the Commission's regulatory scope. As an alternative means of addressing the concerns you have identified regarding the CNC as a sort of legal ID, you may wish to consider adding information to the form that gives notice to prospective employers or prime contractors that (1) it is illegal to employ an undocumented immigrant; (2) the CNC does not in any way indicate a person's immigration status; and (3) employers should use the free federal "e-verify" program to check the status of all prospective employees before hiring them.