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SC begins random checks on companies for illegal immigrants

Beginning this week, South Carolina's largest businesses have to use a federal database or check drivers' licenses to verify the immigration status of new workers. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more: The state's Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation has hired 10 investigators to randomly check that companies are using the extra measures to ensure that new hires can legally work in the U.S. Investigators also follow-up on complaints against large businesses thought to employ illegal immigrants. Jim Knight, a spokesman for the department, says right now only about 5,000 businesses are large enough to attract the scrutiny of investigators. "I've had a steady number of complaints, three or four each day since the law was signed last June," says Knight. "Typically, the callers want to complain about a small employer and unfortunately there's nothing we can do at this point because the law gives small businesses, those that employ less than 100, until July 1, 2010 in which to comply." Under the law passed last year, companies that have contracts with the state or local governments would also be subject to the random checks. Otis Rawl is the head of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. He says the new measures won't mean much extra work for businesses. "A lot of our folks are already using E-Verify as part of the process. A lot of them are already using drivers' licenses," adds Rawl. Businesses that fail to use the verification process can be fined between $100 and $1,000 for each illegal immigrant they employ. Companies found to intentionally hire illegal immigrants could have their business licenses suspended or revoked.