The Obama administration is requiring federal contractors to use e-Verify as of September, and Congress is looking at a universal requirement for all employers. The Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups are fighting universal application because, they argue, of the burdens on small businesses and delays in response by the Department of Homeland Security to resolving problems with verification.
‘”>Below is a useful overview of the situation as of this week:
Momentum builds in Congress for mandatory worker verification
By Kent Hoover
The Triangle Business Journal (NC), August 3, 2009
Momentum appears to be growing for legislation that would require all employers, not just federal contractors, to use the E-Verify system to confirm that their employees are eligible to work in the United States.
E-Verify is a Web-based system that allows employers to check the Social Security and visa numbers submitted by workers against government databases. More than 137,000 employers now use the system, which approves 97 percent of workers in a few seconds.
Beginning Sept. 8, federal contractors will be required to use E-Verify to confirm that new hires and current employees working on federal contracts are authorized to work in the U.S. The requirement also will apply to most subcontractors.
Many members of Congress want to expand E-Verify to all employers, as a way to end the ‘jobs magnet’ for illegal immigration. This ‘could open up thousands of American jobs to workers with legal status,’ said Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C.
Shuler is the lead House sponsor of the Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act, a bill that would expand E-Verify to all employers over four years. The legislation also would increase the number of Border Patrol agents, interior enforcement officials and immigration judges.
Lead Senate sponsor Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said the bill could serve as ‘the baseline’ for any immigration reform legislation that the Senate may consider.
The Senate already has shown its appetite for increased immigration enforcement. It recently amended the Department of Homeland Security’s appropriations bill to require federal contractors to check the work eligibility status of all of their employees.
Another amendment would prohibit DHS from rescinding a never-implemented Bush administration regulation that would force employers to fire employees if their Social Security numbers don’t match government records and the discrepancy can’t be resolved.
Chamber open to ‘workable’ system
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have filed lawsuits challenging the mandatory use of E-Verify by federal contractors and the legality of the proposed Social Security number ‘no-match’ rule.
It also petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court July 24 to review the constitutionality of an Arizona law that requires businesses in that state to use E-Verify.
‘Employers are being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of conflicting state and local immigration laws,’ said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center. ‘The Supreme Court needs to step in and make it clear that it’s up to the federal government to set national immigration policy.’
Making E-Verify mandatory could be part of that national policy, if the requirement is rolled out in stages and small businesses are exempted, said Angelo Amador, the chamber’s executive director of immigration policy.
Contractors also should not be liable for undocumented workers hired by subcontractors, he testified July 23 at a House hearing on E-Verify. The verification requirement also should apply only to new employees, not existing ones, he said.
‘Reverifying an entire work force is an unduly burdensome, costly proposition, and unnecessary given how often workers change jobs in the United States,’ Amador testified.
Eight trade associations representing the construction industry made similar points in a joint statement submitted at the hearing.
‘A new employer verification system must be workable not only for the Fortune 100 companies in the U.S., but also the small employer who has three employees, and who thinks they might have an email address but couldn’t tell you what it is, because they’ve never tried to use it,’ said the statement.
Any mandatory verification system must include a telephone option, according to the statement, and not require companies ‘to buy a lot of expensive equipment.’
Others want to scrap E-Verify
Other business groups, however, want Congress to scrap E-Verify because of errors in government databases and its inability to detect identify theft. They instead favor development of a new employment verification system that would use advanced technology — such as biometric scans — and fewer, more-secure identity documents.
‘We believe employers are entitled to a quick, unambiguous and accurate answer from the government to the query whether an employee is authorized to accept an offer of employment,’ states the Human Resource Initiative for a Legal Workforce, which primarily represents large employers. ‘Unfortunately, mandating E-Verify without change will not meet this need, and may make the challenges more difficult for reputable employers and legal employees.’
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services added a photograph screening capability to E-Verify in 2007, but it only works for DHS-issued identify cards. It would like to include driver’s license photos in its screening tool, but so far, no state has agreed to provide this information to USCIS.
‘We are working to find ways to detect and deter fraud to the extent possible,’ said Gerri Ratliff, deputy associate director of the agency’s National Security and Records Verification Directorate. ‘Incorporating driver’s license information and photos would strongly support this effort.’