Legislation to Mandate E-Verify Introduced

We recently reported on a proposed bill in the House that would require all American employers to use E-Verify.  A recent Human Resources Executive Online article provides more details about the Legal Workforce Act of 2011 and the debate it has created.

According to the article, large employers; federal, state, and local agencies; and federal and state contractors would only have up to six months to comply. Smaller employers would have up to two years before they would have to run employees through E-Verify.

The Act would also:

  • Reinstate the "no-match" program in which the Social Security Administration (SSA) notifies employers when a Social Security Number provided on a W-2 form does not match the SSA's records.
  • Require employers to run employees through E-Verify after receiving a no-match letter.
  • Create a phone-verification system employers could use instead of the online system.
  • Increase fines for employers who refuse to use the system.
  • Protect employers from liability if the system erroneously states that an illegal worker is eligible.

There is much debate over whether the bill will - or should - pass. Many are concerned about E-Verify's accuracy. While it usually correctly identifies natural-born citizens, it fails on about half of the foreign-born workers.  And the system is prone to identity theft because all the system requires is documents proving identity, documents that can easily be stolen.  A biometric pilot program to be introduced as part of the Act could help, but there are still concerns.

Employment and immigration attorneys also noted the potential negative impact on businesses. Some say the deadlines are not realistic and that the technology requirements could prove to be burdensome for very small companies.  Even companies with just one employee will be required to comply.

The Legal Workforce Act of 2011 may not pass.  However, as one attorney in the article noted, even if it doesn't, another law could likely be proposed, so employers need to be prepared to implement E-Verify.

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

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