Every employer in the United States would be required to use E-Verify to determine whether employees are authorized to work if “The Legal Workforce Act of 2017” (LWA) is passed.
Supported by President Donald Trump and introduced by Representatives Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Ken Calvert (R-Cal.) to “turn off the jobs and benefits magnet” that attracts undocumented workers, LWA will create a database of information about every employee in the country. The bill was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of that committee, sees LWA as a way to prevent “future administrations from engaging in lax immigration enforcement.”
The bill includes:
- Preemption of duplicative state E-Verify laws
- Locking of Social Security numbers to protect against identity theft
- Granting of a safe harbor to employers who use E-Verify “in good faith”
- Raising penalties for knowingly hiring undocumented workers
Under LWA, employers must comply based on the number of employees they have as follows:
- 10,000 or more employees – within 6 months after enactment
- 500 or more employees – within 12 months after enactment
- 20 or more employees – within 18 months after enactment
- 1 or more employees – within 24 months after enactment
As currently written, agricultural labor and services are exempt from the bill’s strict schedule. Those employers would have 30 months to implement E-Verify. Companies that recruit or refer employees, however, must comply within 12 months.
Congressional Democrats have opposed a “stand-alone” E-Verify bill and have suggested that mandatory E-Verify could be included in a bill that would protect DACA beneficiaries. E-Verify’s 0.3% error rate, according to Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.) when discussing the 2015 version of LWA, would mean between 162,000 and 465,000 workers could be wrongly flagged as unauthorized to work in the first year following enactment and need to go through what can be a frustrating process of proving employment eligibility and possibly losing employment.
Trump has long been a proponent of mandatory E-Verify use. Following his “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order, the USCIS encouraged all employers to use E-Verify. In addition, recent budget proposals have included funding for an expansion of E-Verify.
Jackson Lewis attorneys will continue to provide updates as they become available.