Beginning January 1, 2008, Tennessee employers that knowingly hire illegal immigrants or fail to adequately check the status of illegal immigrants could lose their business license. Specifically, the law prohibits employers from employing, recruiting or referring for a fee of employment, illegal aliens. Employers do not, however, violate the new law if they use the federal electronic work authorization verification service to verify the employment status of workers within 14 days of their start date. Moreover, employers do not violate the law if they obtain the worker’s lawful resident verification information in a timely manner (even if this information is later determined to be false).

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen signed House Bill 729 on June 26, after the bill underwent several key amendments to remove criminal penalties (which ran afoul of federal law). The law suspends an employer’s license until the employer corrects the violation. Further violations occurring within three years of the first suspension will result in a year-long license suspension. For a copy of the new law, visit

Rep. John Hood (D-Murfreesboro), who along with Sen. Bill Kerton (R-Murfreesboro) sponsored the bill, said that he hopes there aren’t many business that lose their license because of the measure. Comparing the bill to a law that allows police officers to pull over motorists who aren’t wearing their seat belts, Hood states, “The idea wasn’t to catch anybody not wearing their seat belt. It was hopefully to get everybody in the mindset, ‘Hey, I need to wear a seat belt to save my life’.”