WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., today announced their support for legislation that would help businesses comply with immigration laws by certifying the legal status of their workforce. The “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act,” introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would permanently authorize the E-Verify program, which is an internet-based system that assists employers in determining whether current or prospective employees are authorized to work in the United States. The bill would require employers to use the program to determine workers’ eligibility.
“I have been a longtime supporter of E-Verify for the simple reason that it works,” Wicker said. “Over the past 23 years, this program has provided employers with the best technology available to verify the eligibility of prospective workers. I hope we can make this program permanent and mandatory, as we work to stop unauthorized immigration into the U.S.”
“Filling American jobs with legal workers is important, and the E-Verify system is an effective tool to maintain a legal workforce and reduce unauthorized employment. E-Verify can also help ensure that individuals entering our country illegally aren’t rewarded for breaking the law,” Hyde-Smith said.
Currently, employers voluntarily submit information from an employee’s Form I-9 to the Department of Homeland Security through the E-Verify system, which works in partnership with the Social Security Administration to determine worker eligibility. There is no cost for employers to use E-Verify. More than 750,000 businesses use the program today.
Congress established the E-Verify program in 1996 as a pilot program in five states. The pilot program was reauthorized in 2001, expanded to employers in every state in 2003, and reauthorized several times since 2008.
Among other provisions, the legislation would:
- Permanently reauthorize the E-Verify program that was created in 1996;
- Require employers to begin using the program within one year of the date of enactment;
- Require federal contractors and agencies to use the program immediately;
- Direct “critical employers,” as identified by the Secretary of Homeland Security, to use the system within 30 days of designation;
- Increase penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers;
- Reduce the liability that employers face if their participation in E-Verify involves the wrongful termination of an individual;
- Establish a demonstration project in a rural area or area without internet capabilities to assist small businesses in complying with the participation requirement; and
- Establish an Employer Compliance Inspection Center (ECIC) within ICE to streamline program audits and review compliance with worker eligibility laws.
The full bill text is available here.