My small business is a melting pot, a microcosm of the world at large.  We have employees who come from European, African, South American, Middle Eastern and Asian backgrounds.   Some have recently escaped harsh conditions in their home countries, some immigrated years ago with their parents in search of a better life, some are the sons and daughters of immigrants who came decades ago.   Despite these vast differences, we all get along.   

Our firm provides environmental testing and consulting services to the real estate and construction industries.   All new hires fill out a myriad of paperwork along with the required I-9 form. This is part of our employment process and we find there are minuscule costs and very little inconvenience associated with it. 

But that would change if Congress passes a measure, currently stalled, calling for every employer in the nation to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of all applicants and staff to ensure they aren’t hiring or employing undocumented workers.

Having been in New York during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I understand the need for border security and having strong immigration laws in effect to protect America. But this would serve as yet another unfunded mandate that would disproportionately burden small businesses. Experts said the requirement would cost businesses $2.7 billion a year, $2.6 billion of that by small businesses.

Small businesses are the engine of our economy, and, thus, should not be forced to act as immigration agents. Experts have said the measure would cost small businesses an average of $147 per applicant. Plus, it would cost small businesses time in administrating the process. For some understaffed small businesses, time is an even more precious commodity than money.

The E-Verify system would require the use of a high-speed Internet, something that is not always available to small businesses in rural areas.

The entrepreneurial spirit is one of the greatest things about America. But an E-Verify requirement would be yet another burden to wear small businesses down.

At a time when the nation is trying to encourage small businesses to expand their payrolls, the measure would potentially add thousands of dollars in expenses and give them another reason to have second thoughts about taking on additional workers..

Jennifer Carey is the founder and president of JLC Environmental Consultants, Inc., which provides environmental testing, consulting and health training for clients in the public and private sector. She also serves as the director of safety training for Failsafe Training Co. a division of JLC.