Legal Workforce Act Would Require E-Verify Use by All U.S. Employers

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On September 8, 2017, U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) – whose 1996 bill created the pilot for the E-Verify system – introduced to Congress “The Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 3711) which would require all U.S. employers to use E-Verify to check the work eligibility of new hires, according to a press release on Congressman Smith’s website.

Operated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify checks the social security numbers of newly hired employees against Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records to help ensure that they are genuinely eligible to work in the U.S.

E-Verify confirms 99.8 percent of work-eligible employees and takes less than two minutes to use. Over 740,000 American employers currently use E-Verify, and a 2016 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found 83 percent of U.S. employers support a mandatory electronic verification system.

Confidence in the E-Verify program remains consistently high with E-Verify again earning a score of 85 on the 2016 Customer Satisfaction Index. The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee provides the following summary of key components of “The Legal Workforce Act”:

  • Repeals I-9 System: The Legal Workforce Act repeals the current paper-based I-9 system and replaces it with a completely electronic work eligibility check, bringing the process into the 21st century. However, if an employer chooses to keep using the paper-based I-9 system they may do so.
  • Gradual Phase-In: Phases-in mandatory E-Verify participation for new hires in six month increments beginning on the date of enactment. Within six months of enactment, businesses having more than 10,000 employees are required to use E-Verify. Within 12 months of enactment, businesses having 500 to 9,999 employees are required to use E-Verify. Eighteen months after enactment, businesses having 20 to 499 employees must use E-Verify. And 24 months after enactment, businesses having 1 to 19 employees must use E-Verify. Allows a one-time six month extension of the initial phase-in. It also requires that employees performing “agricultural labor or services” are subject to an E-Verify check within 30 months of the date of enactment.
  • Voluntary Use: In addition to new hires, the bill allows employers to use E-Verify to check the work eligibility of their current employees as long as they do so in a nondiscriminatory manner and of all employees who are in the same geographic location or in the same job category.
  • States as Partners: Preempts duplicative state laws mandating E-Verify use but gives states prominent roles in enforcing the law. Specifically, it retains the ability of states and localities to condition business licenses on the requirement that the employer use E-Verify in good faith under federal law. In addition, the bill allows states to enforce the federal E-Verify requirement and incentivizes them to do so by letting them keep the fines they recover from employers who violate the law.
  • Protects Against Identity Theft: The bill allows individuals to lock their Social Security number (SSN) so that it can’t be used by another person to get a job. It also allows parents or legal guardians to lock the SSN of their minor child. And if a SSN shows a pattern of unusual multiple use, DHS is required to lock the SSN and alert the owner that their personal information may have been compromised.
  • Safe Harbor: Grants employers safe harbor from prosecution if they use the E-Verify program in good faith, and through no fault of their own, receive an incorrect eligibility confirmation.
  • Strengthened Penalties: The bill raises penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants in violation of the requirements of the bill. The bill also creates a penalty for individuals (employees or employers) who knowingly submit false information to the E-Verify system.
  • Identity Authentication Pilot Programs: The bill requires DHS to conduct at least two pilot programs aimed at using technology within the E-Verify system to help further prevent identity theft in the system.

“The Legal Workforce Act puts legal workers first and enjoys broad support from the American people. It is free, quick, easy-to-use and effective,” Congressman Smith stated in the press release. “By expanding the E-Verify system to all U.S. employers, this bill will ensure that jobs only go to legal workers.”

Congressman Smith was joined in introducing the bill by coauthors House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and Congressman Ken Calvert (R-California). The text of “The Legal Workforce Act” is available at: https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/LWA-Bill-Text.pdf.

As reported by ESR News in May 2017, the White House Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget that requested $44.1 billion for the DHS also called for “expanding worksite enforcement strategies by mandating nationwide use of the E-Verify system” to reduce illegal employment, according to the DHS FY 2018 Budget in Brief.

The DHS FY 2018 Budget in Brief requested: $131.5 million for E-Verify operations and upgrades for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including new investments to expand the E-Verify program. The purpose of expanding E-Verify is to support mandatory use of E-Verify nationwide within three years.

In January 2017, ESR News reported that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reintroduced legislation called the “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act” that would permanently authorize and require employers to use the E-Verify program.

E-Verify is voluntary except for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause requiring the use of E-Verify to determine the employment eligibility of employees performing work under those contracts and all new hires for those employers.

States that have laws regarding E-Verify use include Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

ESR Helps Employers with E-Verify Compliance

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – is also a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that helps employers with E-Verify compliance. For more information about ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com. Visit ESR on social media at FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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