Bill would subject all new U.S. employees to E-Verify screenings

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Lawmakers discussed legislation yesterday that would require all U.S. businesses to use the Homeland Security Department's E-Verify program to check that employees can legally work in the country. The Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164), introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), would take effect two years following the bill's passage and repeal the paper-based I-9 System.

"Americans overwhelmingly support making E-Verify mandatory," said Smith in a June 14 statement. "Today, over 250,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and an average of 1,300 new businesses sign up each week." 

Smith also asserted that the system will not be a burden on businesses and is more reliable than the "current paper-based, error-prone I-9 system. Under the I-9 system, the employer only has to attest that an identification document 'reasonably appears on its face to be genuine.'"

The electronic system uses Social Security numbers to check the legality of new employees using government databases. E-Verify does not, however, incorporate mechanisms for detecting fraudulent identity or employment eligibility documents.

While the system has improved considerably, it still occasionally flags eligible employees as illegal. Were E-Verify to become mandatory for all American employers, there would be 180,000 wrongly flagged people a year, based on a size estimate of 60 million new hires a year, according to a January Government Accountability Office report.

"54 percent of undocumented workers who are put through the system are not detected," said Tyler Moran, policy director at the National Immigration Law Center, yesterday before the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement.

The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services is planning to have online by fiscal 2012 a $6 million automated data mining capability called the Data Analysis System. E-Verify first came online more than a decade ago, in 1997.

For more:
- see the hearing page, which includes video and prepared testimonies
- see H.R. 2164 (.pdf)

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