GOP resurrects national e-verify movement

SHRM — Legislation requiring employers to use the government’s electronic employment eligibility verification program to ensure that their employees are authorized to work in the U.S. will soon be reintroduced, lawmakers said.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, announced his intention to reintroduce the Legal Workforce Act at a Feb. 4, 2015, House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee hearing, calling it a “common sense approach that will reduce illegal immigration and save jobs for American workers and legal workers.”

The previous version of the bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee in December 2014 but was never called for a vote in front of the full House of Representatives. The proposal would have required employers to attest that their workers are authorized to work in the country via the E-Verify system.

The E-Verify program is an Internet-based system that allows employers to electronically check an employee’s I-9 form against government records to confirm that the person is eligible to work in the U.S. The program is voluntary at the federal level, though some states require certain employers to use it. Nearly 575,000 employers are currently signed up to use E-Verify and the agency that administers it has testified that the program confirms applicants’ work eligibility 99.7 percent of the time.

“One way to make sure we discourage illegal immigration in the future is to prevent unlawful immigrants from getting jobs in the U.S. Requiring the use of E-Verify by all employers across the country will help do just that,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who co-sponsored the previous legislation.

The bill would phase-in E-Verify use in six-month increments beginning with the largest U.S. businesses and mandate that all employers use the system within two years of enactment.

The legislation raises penalties for employers who don’t comply with E-Verify requirements, allows employers to use E-Verify prior to hiring an applicant, provides a safe harbor for employers who use the system in good faith, and seeks to combat identity theft by requiring agencies to “lock” Social Security numbers suspected of being compromised and notify applicants of any “unusual multiple use.”

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