Five-Year Reauthorization of E-Verify Seen as Compromise

By J.J. Smith Aug 6, 2008

A House member who wanted to extend the E-Verify program 10 years has agreed to a compromise that would extend the program five years beyond its November 2008 expiration date “for the sake of reauthorization,” says a Capitol Hill staffer.

On July 31, 2008, the House passed HR 6633, the Employee Verification Amendment Act, which was introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), and amended a bill that originally extended the E-Verify program by 10 years. The original bill that sought to extend E-Verify 10 years was introduced by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., but Calvert agreed to the compromise that reduces the extension to five years.

Once approved by the House, it was immediately referred to the Senate, where on Aug. 1 it was read twice and referred to the Judiciary Committee. No other Senate action has been taken or is scheduled, but it is likely to be referred to the Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

E-Verify opponents applauded the bill, saying the five-year extension provides time to develop an alternative worker verification program.

The proposed 10-year extension had support from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and immigration subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. Lofgren had worked to fast-track the bill onto the House floor before lawmakers recessed for August; the House is in recess until Sept. 4, and the Senate is scheduled to recess from Aug. 9 to Sept. 7.

Calvert agreed to reduce the original extension of the E-Verify program from 10 years to five years “because the most important thing is reauthorization [of E-Verify],” Calvert’s communication director Rebecca Rudman told SHRM Online.

Senate E-Verify Bills

There also are two Senate bills pending that would reauthorize E-Verify.

In July, Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced S 3257—the proposed Legal Immigration Extension Act—that would renew E-Verify for five years. The bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.

The other bill, S 3093—the proposed Electronic Employment Verification Act introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa—would make E-Verify permanent and authorize the Department of Homeland Security to mandate its use among employers found to have a pattern or practice of employing unauthorized workers. The bill was read twice and referred to the Judiciary Committee.

SHRM’s Perspective

The Human Resource Initiative for a Legal Workforce, a coalition of 11 employer organizations to which the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) belongs, seeks to replace E-Verify with another worker verification program. It has urged Congress not to extend the E-Verify program beyond three years.

However, the five-year extension of E-Verify provided for in HR 6633 is a “responsible step” that gives lawmakers time to craft a verification system that works fairly and effectively for employers and employees alike, said Mike Aitken, SHRM’s director of government affairs, in a statement.

The coalition also supports a different approach to worker verification as proposed in the New Employee Verification Act (HR 5515), he said.

HR 5515, introduced on Feb. 28 by Giffords and Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), would create a voluntary biometrics option that employers could choose to use in the verification process. This system would include a standard background check and the collection of a biometric characteristic, such as a thumbprint, to secure an employee’s identity and prevent the illegal use of a Social Security number, stolen or fraudulently-obtained driver’s license, or altered identification documents.

J.J. Smith is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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