Senate’s immigration reform bill calls for increased workplace enforcementPosted on Monday, April 29, 2013
One of the lynchpins of the comprehensive immigration reform bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate is increased immigration enforcement, not just at the borders but also in the workplace. Mandatory use of a new electronic employment verification system will hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, and make it more difficult for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment.
The new system will be based on the current E-Verify system and will be phased in over a five-year period. E-Verify compares information such as the name and Social Security number provided on an I-9 employment form against databases managed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Today, employers’ use of the system is voluntary. As of late 2012, about 409,000 employers were using the system, a fraction of the roughly six million private employers. A
lthough the system’s accuracy rate has improved, some unauthorized workers still slip through, while in other cases a U.S. citizen or other authorized worker’s status is not successfully verified. The Senate bill would new add protections for workers and employers, such as an appeals process for those who are erroneously identified as unauthorized to work, and a protection from liability for employers who rely on E-Verify results that are later proved to be wrong.
If an employer hires an undocumented worker after the company’s mandatory enrollment date but fails to use the system, the employer will be presumed to have knowingly hired an unauthorized worker. The civil penalty for knowingly hiring an unauthorized worker will be $3,500 - $7,500 for each authorized alien, for the first offense. Record-keeping failures will result in civil fines of 4500 - $2,000 per violation.
The current Form I-9 will also be replaced with a new form, and more restrictions will be placed on the acceptable documents used to verify identity and employment eligibility. Since the new system will be based on photo-matching for all except U.S. citizens, it is likely that only documents containing photographs will be allowed.
Acknowledging the ongoing challenge of Social Security fraud, the Senate bill would provide additional security by allowing employees to “lock” their Social Security numbers so that they cannot be used by another person. The bill also calls for the creation of a new fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear-resistant Social Security card in order to combat document fraud.