As more and more states pass legislation mandating use of E-Verify, a federal E-Verify mandate seems inevitable. Recently, Representative Lamar Smith introduced the first attempt at such a federal mandate, the Legal Workforce Act.

The Legal Workforce Act would preempt existing state E-Verify laws and repeal the current paper Form I-9 system, replacing it with a completely electronic system. It would be phased in as follows:

• Employers with 10,000 or more employees: 6 months after enactment
• Employers with 500-9,999 employees: 12 months after enactment
• Employers with 20-499 employees: 18 months after enactment
• Employers with 1-19 employees: 24 months after enactment

The bill also includes special provisions for agricultural employers, phasing those employers in after 36 months and treating seasonal workers as existing employees, as opposed to new hires. As with the current rules, the bill would grant employers safe harbor from prosecution for employing unauthorized workers if they used the E-Verify program in good faith.

In introducing the bill, Representative Smith cited high unemployment, voter support and strong bi-partisan support. He is quoted as saying, “With unemployment at 9%, jobs are scarce. Despite record unemployment, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers." It remains to be seen whether Smith will get the bi-partisan support needed to pass the bill. Presently, it still sits in committee.