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Last week Congress returned to Washington, D.C., after a two-week recess. With a government funding deadline looming, Congress passed H.J. Res. 99, a seven-day Continuing Resolution (CR) for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY 2017), to fund the government through May 5, 2017, averting a federal shutdown scheduled to commence at midnight on Friday, April 28.
The short-term CR was necessary to give the House and Senate Appropriations Committees time to complete negotiations on a final FY 2017 appropriations bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September 30, 2017). The short-term CR included funding for E-Verify, the voluntary web-based system that allows more than half a million participating employers (a little over 10 percent of the employer population) to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees.
On Sunday, April 30, lawmakers announced they had reached a long-term deal known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. Congress now has until this Friday, May 5 to pass the bill.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 continues to reauthorize the E-Verify program. Specifically, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is granted $103,912,000 (as compared to $119,671,000 for FY 2016) for the E-Verify program to assist U.S. employers with maintaining a legal workforce. While this amount for FY 2017 appears to be about $15 million less than the FY 2016 funding level, the funds are reallocated for improvements. The USCIS is also granted an additional $15,227,000 "for procurement, construction, and improvements of the E-Verify program," which means that funding for the USCIS E-Verify program is relatively consistent with last year's budget.
In the meantime, President Donald Trump's Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal called for funding to support the mandatory use of E-Verify. The document states, "This investment would strengthen the employment verification process and reduce unauthorized employment across the U.S." According to a recent SHRM Employment Verification Survey, there is strong employer support for a mandatory electronic verification system if it is entirely electronic (eliminating or folding the Form I-9 into the electronic system), includes certain features that would help organizations avoid allegations of employment-based discrimination, contains a strong safe harbor to protect employers, authenticates the identity of potential new hires and, if not included into the electronic system, would result in the elimination of the paper-based Form I-9.
SHRM and our affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI), will keep our memberships apprised of E-Verify legislative developments. In addition, as it relates to improvements to the E-Verify program, SHRM and CFGI advocate in support of policies that provide employers with effective tools to ensure they are hiring a legal workforce. Both organizations believe congressional reforms should create an integrated electronic verification system that incorporates the E-Verify system with an attestation system which eliminates the duplicative Form I-9, uses state-of-the-art technology to accurately authenticate a job applicant's identity, ensures a safe harbor from liability for good-faith program users, and requires employment verification only for new hires.
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