As Congress looks into mandating E-Verify, a voluntary Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S., the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently urged lawmakers to ensure it is a fair, efficient and workable system and noted that this should be only one component in achieving comprehensive immigration reform.
Testifying on the “Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 2164) before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, Barry Rutenberg, first vice chairman of NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., said that Congress should not end its efforts to address immigration issues after considering a compulsory E-Verify program for all U.S. employers.
Rutenberg commended the efforts of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to address the issue of legal workers, adding that, “E-Verify may be a first step, but it should not be the only step. It is vitally important that Congress continue to work towards a revision and improvement of the nation’s broken immigration and visa systems, and to seek a pathway for workers to legally enter the United States when the economy needs them.”
Introduced by Rep. Smith on June 14, the legislation is geared toward providing one uniform federal requirement for E-Verify use, supplanting the laws being considered by a growing number of states and localities that have been working to mandate the federal program using different rules and requirements.
NAHB strongly believes that the E-Verify program must continue to focus on the direct employer-employee relationship, holding every U.S. employer accountable for the identity and work authorization status of their direct employees. Under current law, employers are responsible for verification of the identity and work authorization status of their direct employees only. While employers do not verify the employees of subcontractors, they are precluded from knowingly using unauthorized subcontracted workers as a means of circumventing immigration law.
“The draft legislation maintains current law in this matter, and NAHB strongly supports that decision,” said Rutenberg.
NAHB also called on lawmakers to ensure that any legislation that requires the use of E-Verify by all U.S. employers includes a strong pre-emption clause, preventing state and local governments from creating and enforcing their own versions of verification requirements for employers.
A universal use of E-Verify by all employers nationwide would undoubtedly lead to a significant increase in errors as more and more workers are run through the system, testing the limits of its capacity. Therefore, NAHB called on lawmakers to ensure that any compulsory federal E-Verify program contains a robust safe harbor for employers in order to ensure that those who use the system in good faith will not be held accountable by the Department of Homeland Security, or by the employer’s workers, for errors in the E-Verify system.
“An employer who hires a worker who has cleared E-Verify, and who later turns out to be unauthorized, or who terminates an actual legal worker that E-Verify says is unauthorized, should not be penalized because the federal database was wrong,” said Rutenberg. He also added that until E-Verify can detect cases of fraud, employers who use the system should not be held accountable for unauthorized workers who have cleared the system because of identity theft.
For more information, visit www.NAHB.org.