Grassley Reintroduces Mandatory Nationwide E-Verify Proposal

By Roy Maurer Feb 17, 2017
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A Republican senator reintroduced legislation that would permanently authorize and require all employers to use the E-Verify program, currently a mostly voluntary online system that helps organizations determine the employment eligibility of workers in the United States.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Complying with E-Verify Requirements]

"E-Verify is a proven tool for employers, including myself, that helps reduce incentives for illegal immigration and safeguards job opportunities for Americans and other legal workers," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "Expanding the system to every workplace will improve accountability for all businesses and take an important step toward putting American workers first."

Nearly 700,000 employers currently use E-Verify, established in 1996 as a pilot program and funded by taxpayers. It is required for most federal contractors and for all employers in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Utah, as well as for public employers in Florida and Texas. Businesses input information reported on a new hire's Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the E-Verify system, which uses Social Security Administration data to determine legal status.

The program has been reauthorized several times and is set to expire on April 28.

The legislation would:

  • Permanently reauthorize the E-Verify program. 
  • Make the program mandatory for all employers within one year of enactment; require federal contractors and agencies to use the program immediately; and direct "critical employers," as identified by DHS, to use the system within 30 days. 
  • Increase penalties for employers that illegally hire undocumented workers.
  • Reduce the liability that employers face if they wrongfully terminate a worker due to inaccurate information provided by E-Verify. 
  • Allow employers to use E-Verify before a person is hired if consent is provided by the candidate.
  • Require employers to check the status of all employees not previously verified through E-Verify within three years of enactment.
  • Require employers to terminate employees found to be unauthorized to work due to a check through E-Verify. 
  • Require employers to reverify an employee's immigration status if the employment authorization is due to expire.

"SHRM believes that a legal workforce must be a key element of any effective immigration policy, including a reliable, national and entirely electronic employment-eligibility verification system that provides employers with certainty that new employees are authorized to work in the U.S.," said Chatrane Birbal, senior government relations advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

She said it is conceivable that a mandatory E‑Verify program will garner support in this Congress.

"While I don't expect comprehensive immigration reform this year, Congress is very likely to pursue more targeted approaches on legislation, including interior enforcement extending to the implementation of a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify program. Absent congressional action, additional states and localities could enact measures to require E-Verify as part of the employment verification process," Birbal said.

Others think that Grassley's bill will face opposition but nevertheless has its best chance for passage in years with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and President Donald Trump's pledge to strictly enforce immigration laws.

SHRM supports congressional reforms that would:

  • Pre-empt the patchwork of state laws with one reliable, accurate and easily accessible federal employment verification system.
  • Create an integrated, entirely electronic verification system that eliminates the paper Form I-9.
  • Use state-of-the art technology to accurately authenticate a job applicant's identity, such as knowledge-based authentication to protect against identity theft.
  • Ensure a safe harbor from liability for good-faith program users.
  • Require employment verification only for new hires. 

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