SHRM supports bill aimed at stopping illegal workers

U.S. legislation also includes protections against identity theft

A coalition of business leaders and HR professionals, led by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), has endorsed legislation that would create a mandatory employment verification system for all employers in the United States.

The legislation is intended to prevent unauthorized work in the U.S. by requiring verification of all new hires through the use of an electronic, reliable and more secure system than currently exists.

"The government hasn't given employers the right tools to ensure a legal workforce," said Susan Meisinger, president and CEO of SHRM. "This bill is a major step toward doing something meaningful to stop illegal immigration."

The bill, known as the New Employee Verification Act, was introduced to Congress by Representative Sam Johnson (R-Texas) at the end of February.

“We strongly believe that employers need to be part of the solution to illegal immigration,” said Meisinger. “But HR professionals and employers shouldn’t have to be America’s surrogate border patrol agents. This bill takes the burden off their shoulders by creating a modern, easy-to-use verification system that truly works.”

The legislation would enable employers to confirm quickly and accurately the legal status of prospective employees by checking identification data through their state’s “new hire” reporting program, a system that is already widely used for child support enforcement.

The new verification system would be superior to the federal government’s existing program, known as E-Verify, because it would rely on a more accurate, up-to-date database, and it would be entirely electronic, thereby eliminating susceptibility to fraud and identity theft.

The bill also strengthens enforcement through enhanced penalties on employers and by referring mismatches found in Social Security numbers to the Department of Homeland Security for further investigation.

The legislation also would create a voluntary biometrics option that employers could choose to use in the verification process. This system would include a standard background check and the collection of a biometric characteristic — such as a thumbprint — to secure an employee’s identity and prevent the illegal use a Social Security number, stolen or fraudulently-obtained drivers’ license, or altered identification documents.

The federal government’s current E-Verify system, which SHRM and other business groups believe is inadequate and unreliable, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2008.

SHRM and other organizations have found that E-Verify is prone to errors and susceptible to fraud because it relies on paper documents and an incomplete database.

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