Immigration Reform

Legislation Mandating E-Verify Participation Introduced

Mar 6, 2015

Last week, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1147). The bill, if enacted into law, would ultimately require all U.S. employers to check the work eligibility of all future hires through an entirely federal electronic verification system.

Specific to the HR profession, the Legal Workforce Act would:

  1. Repeal the current paper-based Form I-9 system and replace it with a completely electronic work eligibility check. Employers would attest through the electronic verification system that they had examined the new hire’s employment and identification documents to ensure authenticity. The bill would allow employers to complete the attestation on paper as well if the employer wanted to continue to use the paper-based process.
  2. Phase in mandatory use of an electronic verification system for new hires by employers in six-month increments based on their size, beginning on the date of enactment:

     * Within six months of enactment, employers with more than 10,000 employees

     * Within 12 months of enactment, employers with 500 to 9,999 employees

     * 18 months after enactment, employers with 20 to 499 employees

     * 24 months after enactment, employers with 1 to 19 employees

     * 36 months after enactment, employees performing “agricultural labor or services” will be subject to an E-Verify check

     * Employers with 50 or fewer employees may seek a one-time six-month extension of the initial phase-in from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  3. Grant employers through a limited safe harbor from prosecution if they use the E-Verify program in good faith and, through no fault of their own, receive an incorrect eligibility confirmation. SHRM is working with other employer organizations to clarify the application of the safe harbor in several instances.
  4. Raise penalties on employers that knowingly hire undocumented workers, and create a penalty for individuals (employees or employers) who knowingly submit false information to the E-Verify system.
  5. Require DHS to implement within 24 months of enactment two identity authentication pilot programs to help prevent against identity theft within the system. The two pilot programs will be open to any employer that volunteers to participate. Employers participating in the pilots may cancel after one year after electing to participate.
  6. Pre-empt state law on employer fines for immigration-related issues or require employers to verify work status or identity for work authorization purposes. States could, however, continue to award business licenses on the basis of compliance with the federal system, and state law enforcement would be allowed to enforce the federal provisions and collect the fines.

Prior to the bill’s introduction, a SHRM-led coalition group of employers, including the Council for Global Immigration, the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation and the North American Meat Institute, submitted a statement for the record seeking modifications to the draft Legal Workforce Act. As introduced, the bill includes a few recommended changes that were submitted by the coalition.

Specifically, the coalition advocated that the identity authentication pilot programs should be available to any employer that volunteers to participate and that DHS should implement the programs within 24 months of enactment.

The House Judiciary Committee held a markup of the Legal Workforce Act proposal this week, where it was approved by a vote of 20 to 13. SHRM’s Government Affairs staff will continue to be actively engaged in debate over this and other immigration-related bills on behalf of the employer community and will provide updates on legislative developments in future editions of HR Issues Update. In the meantime, to get the latest and to engage with other employers on employment-based immigration topics, you may wish to consider registering to attend the Council for Global Immigration 2015 Symposium in Washington, D.C.


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