Proposed legislation that would require employers across the country to use the electronic employment-verification program known as E-Verify passed out of a congressional House committee today.
The bill, HR 2885, also called the Legal Workforce Act, would require that almost every business in the country adopt the program within two years of the bill’s final passage. It moved out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 22-13 vote.
“The Legal Workforce Act could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring employers to use E-Verify,” said bill sponsor Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in a statement. “Today it takes an unemployed American nine months to find a job. With E-Verify, we can open up a new job in one to two minutes.” The bill would eliminate the use of the I-9 form, which is currently used to collect employment-eligibility data from potential hires.
The bill would phase in mandatory use for most businesses depending on the size of their staff. Within six months of enactment, businesses with more than 10,000 employees would be required to adopt the program, while businesses that employ 500 to 9,999 would have a year to comply. After 18 months, businesses with 20 to 499 employees would be required to enroll; all others would have two years. Employees who perform agricultural services would only be subject to an E-Verify check within three years.
Critics of the system charge that E-Verify is riddled with errors, and sometimes flags potential legal hires as unauthorized. State lawmakers said those criticisms were the main reason more than a dozen E-Verify-related bills failed to pass the Texas Legislature during the recently concluded regular and special sessions. But in a statement, Smith contends that the system quickly confirms 99.5 percent of eligible employees. The bill also contains a “safe harbor” provision that protects employers from punishment if they use the system and receive incorrect confirmation on an employee.
But the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington-based think tank, cites in a recent report that E-Verify only flags ineligible potential employees 46 percent of the time. It also estimates that between 1.2 million and 3.5 million eligible workers will be forced to fix incorrect information with the Social Security Administration to gain employment, and that the agency will spend more than $280 million to run mandatory E-Verify over a five-year period. It also estimates that had the system been implemented in 2010, it would have cost small businesses more than $2.5 billion to comply with the rule.
The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.