Immigration News Update

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) doesn't fine businesses for honest errors,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Sept. 9, 2008, following a presentation on the nation’s infrastructure at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. People get fined when they knowingly employ illegal aliens.

Businesses that use the E-Verify system will not be fined if it turns out that employees were approved for employment by the E-Verify system because the worker used a stolen identity, Chertoff said.

There have been circumstances where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—a DHS agency—has discovered by an audit of a business’ Form I-9s or by a worksite raid that illegal aliens were using identifications stolen from citizens to gain work, Chertoff said. In those cases ICE does not fine the business, but the illegal workers are arrested and deported, he said. DHS understands that businesses need employees, “but we’re not going to turn a blind eye to law breaking,” he said.

The way for businesses to avoid the hiring of illegal immigrants and the possibility of a workplace raid by ICE is by participating in E-Verify, Chertoff said. Known as “Basic Pilot” when it was authorized by Congress in 1996, E-Verify is a mostly voluntary web-based system used to attempt to verify the work eligibility of individuals seeking employment in the United States. It compares information electronically from Form I-9, the employee eligibility document used for new hires, against more than 425 million records in the Social Security Administration’s database and—for noncitizens—against more than 60 million records in DHS’ immigration database.

About 65,000 employers are enrolled in E-Verify, but that might increase by as many as 200,000 employers because on June 6, 2008, President Bush signed an executive order requiring all federal contractors to use E-Verify to confirm the status of their employees or risk losing their government contracts. In addition, on June 12, 2008, the Defense Department, the General Services Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration detailed their planned expansion of E-Verify by requiring all federal subcontractors to use the system.

E-Verify is set to expire at the end of 2008. On July 31, 2008, the House of Representatives approved Employee Verification Amendment Act (HR 6633), introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., which would extend E-Verify for five years. A Senate bill—the Visa Efficiency and E-Verify Extension Act (S 3414)—would also extend E-Verify. Introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Source: SHRM Online

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