New legislation could mean wider use of E-Verify
More employers may soon be using the internet-based E-Verify system to certify an employee's eligibility to work in the U.S.
The system allows businesses to check the legal status of workers and terminate anyone who fails to meet eligibility requirements. Under the current program, companies voluntarily submit information reported on an employee's Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). E-Verify then reviews Social Security Administration data to determine whether someone is authorized to work in the U.S. Nearly 700,000 employers nationwide now utilize E-Verify.
On January 24, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act, a bill requiring all businesses to use E-Verify for employee certification. Grassley had proposed the bill before, but based on the stricter immigration policies of President Donald Trump, a mandated certification program has a better chance of passing through Congress.
“Businesses across the country have opted to use the E-Verify system to help comply with our immigration laws,” Grassley said in a statement. “E-Verify is a proven tool for employers that helps reduce incentives for illegal immigration and safeguards job opportunities for Americans and other legal workers. Expanding the system to every workplace will improve accountability for all businesses and take an important step toward putting American workers first.”
In its present iteration, E-Verify forces employers to check legal status for all employees every three years. Grassley's legislation would impose penalties up to $25,000 for companies that hire illegal immigrants. In addition, the bill would make the employment tracking tool a permanent program, eliminating the need for congressional reauthorization.
Along with Iowa, E-Verify has gained ground in states including Texas and North Carolina. Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner recently filed SB 23, a bill that would put into statute an executive order mandating E-Verify for all state contractors. Failure to comply would bar offending companies from receiving state contracts for five years and make the state comptroller responsible for enforcement.
Meanwhile, a group of North Carolina House Republicans have proposed a bill that aims to lower the threshold of companies harnessing the E-Verify database from 25 employees to five. The change would bring more small businesses into the system's fold, but an exemption would remain for state agencies, counties, cities and other government bodies.
E-Verify was initially established in 1996 as a pilot program in five states. Following reauthorization in 2001, the program was expanded in 2003 to employers in every state under Grassley-authored legislation. It is scheduled to expire on April 28, 2017.
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