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But should organizations wait for Congress to pass the law?
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A trio of House Republicans reintroduced legislation that would require employers across the country to use E-Verify, the federal government's electronic system to verify new hires' work authorization. Employers in certain states and federal contractors already must use E-Verify, but for most employers, use of the program is voluntary.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is the main sponsor of the Legal Workforce Act, which has passed the House Judiciary Committee three times since 2012 and would require that all employers check the work eligibility of all future hires through the system. Smith was joined in introducing the bill by co-authors Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced his version of the bill in February.
"Nearly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed—meanwhile, 7 million people are working in the United States illegally," Smith said. "By expanding the E-Verify system to all U.S. employers, this bill will ensure that jobs only go to legal workers."
He added that a recent poll showed that 70 percent of Americans support legislation that makes it illegal for businesses in the U.S. to hire undocumented workers.
Operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify checks the Social Security numbers of newly hired employees against government records. The program has a record of confirming 99.8 percent of work-eligible employees and has earned high customer satisfaction scores on the agency's annual surveys, according to USCIS. Over 740,000 employers currently use it.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) supports the bill. "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, a senior government relations advisor at SHRM.
Specifically, SHRM supports congressional reforms that would:
If passed, the Legal Workforce Act would:
Should Employers Wait for a Mandate?
HR consultant David Creelman, the CEO of Creelman Research in Toronto, said employers shouldn't necessarily wait for a government mandate to implement E-Verify. "E-Verify is a sensible system that is neither difficult nor expensive," he said. "It will help ensure you hire eligible and documented workers. It will benefit you in the long run to make E-Verify a standard part of your recruiting and onboarding process—so why not get started now? It's far better to get moving on this implementation so that you can do so at your own pace, and fit it into your own schedule, than to scramble to meet a legislated deadline."
Creelman recommended that organizations check with the HR technology vendors they use to see if vendors have E-Verify compliance built in. "If it's not obvious how this should work with the software you currently have, then call your vendor. They will have run into the issue of integrating an E-Verify process with their software and should have a clear answer," he said. "If you happen to be upgrading your software, make sure you get a system already set up for E-Verify."
Louis D. Crocetti Jr. is a consultant and principal owner of Immigration Integrity Group, based in Washington, D.C., and the former chief of the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security directorate. He said the web-based training currently available for new E-Verify users is "more than sufficient" to learn how to use the program. USCIS could also offer onsite training and seminars throughout the country, he said.
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