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Legislators Introduce Bill to Create New National Employee Verification Process

Immigration Update

March 5, 2008

Intended to Replace Current E-Verify Program, New Act Would Apply to U.S. Citizens and Immigrants

On February 28, 2008, a group of four Republican representatives introduced H.R. 5515 in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill would create a new, mandatory national employee verification process for U.S. citizens and immigrants, and would replace the current E-Verify program in its entirety.  Authorization for E-Verify is scheduled to expire at the end of 2008.

Supporters of the proposed New Employment Verification Act contend that the current system is “riddled with fraud and abuse.”  At a press briefing, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security) said “The new program would rely on the use of fewer, more secure identity documents and would be built upon the new-hire reporting process in each state.”  Rep. Johnson called the proposed legislation “an important new component in immigration reform.”

Key features of the bill include:

• establishing a new paperless electronic employment verification system that relies on the Social Security system's New Hire database to verify legal status;

• allowing employers to voluntarily use a biometric-based system to verify the identity of new hires and help protect against identity theft; and

• broadly preempting state laws imposing additional immigration requirements on employers.

Official cost estimates for the new program have not been made available, but bill supporters contend that it would cost less than the current E-Verify system if that system were to be extended beyond its current expiration date.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Ron Lewis (R-Kentucky), Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).  H.R. 5515 is also being supported by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

At the press briefing, Susan R. Meisinger, president and chief executive officer of SHRM, noted that “HR professionals and employers shouldn’t have to be America’s surrogate border-patrol agents.”  Rep. Johnson noted that the bills supporters have been in discussion with House Democrats, although no formal Democratic response to the bill has yet been issued.

H.R. 5515 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and to the Committees on Ways and Means, Education and Labor, and Rules, for consideration of those provisions that fall within the jurisdiction of each committee.