E-Verify Reauthorization Clears House Panel

By Bill Leonard Jun 16, 2009
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The House Appropriations Committeeapproved a two-year extension for E-Verify—the federal government’s electronic employment verification program—by a voice vote on June 12, 2009. The reauthorization to extend funding for E-Verify through fiscal year 2012 was included as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) $42.6 billion spending package for fiscal year 2010. The current authorization for E-Verify is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2009.

Extending the funding for E-Verify for two years instead of permanently will keep debate on the employment verification program alive and part of the legislative process, sources say. Several efforts to make the program permanent have stalled in Congress as lawmakers and business groups debate the best way to develop an efficient and accurate nationwide verification system.

As part of that effort, a coalition of employer groups called the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce are supporting a bill, called the New Employee Verification Act (H.R. 2028), to replace E-Verify. The coalition—including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—claims that the legislation, which was introduced in the House April 22, 2009, by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, offers a better alternative to the current verification system.

According to supporters of H.R. 2028, E-Verify has several flaws that make the system prone to errors and abuses such as identity theft.

Congress first authorized E-Verify in 1996 as a provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which created an electronic verification pilot program. The program was originally named Basic Pilot and was designed to test the efficacy of a nationwide electronic verification system. Although it was supposed to be a temporary program, Basic Pilot was extended and expanded several times and eventually renamed E-Verify in 2007.

Several attempts to expand E-Verify from a voluntary program to a mandate for all employers have stalled in Congress. However, several states have enacted laws, which require employers to use E-Verify to determine if employees are eligible to work in the United States. Sources familiar with the issue say that efforts to amend the DHS spending bill to change the scope of E-Verify are possible. The full House is scheduled to debate the DHS appropriations bill on June 19, 2009.

Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM Online.

Related Articles:

Verification Bill Could Reignite Immigration Debate, HR News, May 1, 2009

E-Verify Rules for Federal Contractors Delayed, Again, HR News, June 2, 2009

GAO: E-Verify Can’t Eliminate Identity Fraud, HR News, July 14, 2008

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