Monday, June 15, 2009
FAIR Legislative Update, Obama Delays E-Verify
Administration Delays E-Verify Rule for Fourth Time; House Subcommittee to Consider Reauthorization
The Obama Administration announced last week that it would delay - for the fourth time - the implementation of a rule requiring most federal contractors to use the federal E-Verify system to check the work authorization status of their new hires. The rule is now set to take effect on September 8, 2009 - nearly nine months after the original effective date. (USCIS Update, June 3, 2009; See also FAIR's Legislative Update, January 5, 2009).
The delay of the E-Verify requirement comes as special interest groups are challenging the rule in court. Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of special interest groups sued the federal government in December 2008 to prevent the final rule (issued by the Bush Administration) from taking effect on its originally scheduled implementation date: January 15, 2009. The Bush Administration caved to the special interests, and, in January, announced that it would delay the implementation of the final rule until February. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, January 12, 2009). The Obama Administration has now postponed the implementation of the final rule three additional times and has used the same reason each time to justify the delay: "to permit the new Administration an adequate opportunity to review the rule." (See Federal Register, January 30, 2009; Federal Register, April 17, 2009; and Federal Register, June 5, 2009).
While the administration took steps last week to undermine the program, signs of support for E-Verify were evident in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) introduced a bill on Wednesday, June 3 that seeks to reauthorize E-Verify for five years, through the end of September 2014. The bill also contains provisions that would reauthorize three separate visa programs, including the controversial Religious Worker Visa Program. (See H.R. 2679's Legislative Text, June 3, 2009; See also USCIS Benefit Fraud Assessment, July 2006). However, the portion concerning E-Verify is practically identical to H.R.6633, legislation that passed the House of Representatives last year by a vote of 407 - 2. (See H.R. 6633's Legislative Text, August 1, 2008; See also FAIR's Legislative Update, August 4, 2008). The House Immigration Subcommittee had originally scheduled consideration of the new Giffords bill for last Thursday, June 4, but this markup was postponed to a date to be announced.
E-Verify is a proven, successful tool operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration. It allows employers to quickly and easily check the work authorization status of their new hires. According to DHS, the program has an impressive accuracy rate: "About 99.6% of all work-authorized employees verified through E-Verify are verified without receiving a tentative non-confirmation or having to take any type of corrective action." (USCIS Fact Sheet, January 8, 2009). In early May 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that more than 122,000 employers were enrolled in the program, with another 1,000 signing up each week. (Testimony of DHS Secretary Napolitano, May 6, 2009).
In spite of the program's documented success and popularity, recent efforts to pass a long-term E-Verify reauthorization have stalled in the U.S. Senate. (See FAIR's News Release, July 29, 2008 and Immigration Issues, April 2009). Earlier this year, the House added a five-year reauthorization to the stimulus bill, but the Senate did not pass the same provision in their version of the bill and Congressional Leadership then stripped the reauthorization during conference committee. (See FAIR's Legislative Update, February 17, 2009). Then, in March, Congressional Leaders agreed to reauthorize E-Verify for another six months, through the end of September 2009. True immigration reformers are concerned that recent short-term reauthorizations have left E-Verify vulnerable to proponents of amnesty using the program as a bargaining chip the next time Congress debates a massive amnesty bill.