Mandatory E-Verify Proposal Introduced

June 22, 2011

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) on June 15 introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164), which would require all U.S. businesses to verify the immigration status of all new hires using the Everify system. Smith’s bill would apply only to new hires and would pre-empt any state laws on the verification of workers.

The law staggers the implementation deadline for companies based on size: those with 10,000 or more employees must begin using Everify within six months of enactment of the law; employers with 500 to 10,000 workers would have 12 months; employers with 20 to 500 employees would have 18 months; and firms with fewer than 20 employees will have a full two years to begin complying with the new requirement. The law also includes an extension to firms in agricultural industries which will have three years to begin using Everify.

Employers would be required to retain paperwork documentation proving the new hire’s eligibility to work in the U.S. for up to three years or one year after the employee’s termination.

The only existing employees that must be run through the Everify program are those which: work for the federal government, require a federal security clearance, or work for a company on a federal or state contract. The law allows employers to voluntarily run existing employees through Everify, but they cannot pick-and-choose – all must be verified, not simply a few here and there.

A key sticking point for NSBA in any Everify proposal, the Legal Workforce Act includes a good faith clause whereby employers who can show that they’ve done everything in their power to verify an employee according to the law would not be subject to financial or criminal penalties. The bill also includes a 30-day time frame for employers who have first-time infractions to make any needed corrections.

The outlook for the bill is unclear. Despite lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushing for immigration reform, leaders in the Latino community have been very outspoken in their opposition to any expansion of Everify, which could hold broad implications in the months leading up to the 2012 election.

Please click here for more on NSBA’s stance on immigration issues such as Everify.