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American Meat Institute Applauds Introduction of Legal Workforce Act That Will Establish Practical, On-Site Employment Verification System

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Washington, D.C.  – In testimony submitted to the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, AMI President J. Patrick Boyle applauded introduction of the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164) and urged its swift passage.    The bill, introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), will serve as what Boyle called “a critical first step in providing a practical and functional worksite electronic employment verification system that is vital to achieving a stable, legal workforce and securing U.S. borders.”

According to Boyle, AMI members of have a longstanding, demonstrated commitment to voluntary use of the existing employment verification program “E-Verify” and its predecessor, the Basic Pilot Program.  However, he said that the current E-Verify program has serious limitations that the legislation introduced yesterday will help improve. 

The E-Verify system screens out many unauthorized workers at the point of hire by checking to ensure that names and social security numbers presented match one another.  However, the system cannot determine whether the person who is presenting the information is the person to whom the name and social security number belong.    

Boyle also told the committee that the E-Verify program does not have the ability to determine through its access to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) database when an individual’s name and social security number are being reported by several employers at the same time, especially when the employers are not located in close proximity to each other.  Such information should be more effectively acquired and used to target individuals seeking employment who are engaged in identity fraud. 

Delays by the Department of Homeland Security in updating its databases to include the most recent change in status of aliens also can be problematic.   These delays can result in an employer receiving false information regarding whether an individual is or is not authorized to work.  “Real time” updating of alien status information is critical to the effective functioning of the E-Verify program, Boyle noted. 

“It is costly and administratively burdensome for employers to hire and train an individual whom it believes is authorized to work, only to be later informed that a mistake was made and to have to terminate the individual,” he said.

The Legal Workforce Act also authorizes DHS to create a voluntary pilot program for Biometric Employment Eligibility Verification.  AMI previously proposed a similar program to combat identity theft and fraud, and commended its inclusion in the Legal Workforce Act.

“Employers must also be given the tools to determine to the best of their ability the authenticity of documents provided to them to determine work eligibility of their employees.  The number of documents that are currently allowed for submission to determine work eligibility can lead to confusion and document fraud,” he said.  “The Legal Workforce Act reduces the number of documents that can be used to establish legal status, and gives DHS authority to bar types of identification that are frequently used in a fraudulent manner. These provisions will help employers achieve compliance with verification rules without exposure to document fraud problems.

The Legal Workforce Act also includes important safeguards for employers attempting, in good faith, to verify the legal status of their workforce, according to Boyle.   To protect employers and to encourage participation in the system, it establishes that employers participating in good faith are not liable to employees, the federal or state government for hiring decisions taken with respect to information provided by the system.  “This will eliminate the fear of discrimination suits for employers attempting in good faith to maintain a legal workforce,” he said.

The Legal Workforce Act also mandates E-Verify for employers, phasing in universal participation. 

“Mandatory participation is a key way to ensure a stable, legal workforce in United States.  A thoughtful phase-in period will give DHS and SSA sufficient time to better implement and administer the program,” Boyle said. “While the Legal Workforce Act includes a phase-in period, a longer period of time with Congressionally-mandated benchmarks would help ensure that the improved system is well designed and has the capacity to check accurately new applicants screened under the system.”

“Finally, preemption of state and local laws is critical to the establishment of one clear-cut standard of compliance,” Boyle concluded.   “As many AMI members operate across state lines, the costs and difficulty of complying with multiple and differing state and local ;E-Verify type laws’ has been a frustrating and growing problem for AMI’s members…We hope that the record accompanying the consideration of this bill clarifies that States will not be able to establish parallel enforcement mechanisms for licensing or for State contracting provisions that are duplicative of those established by this bill.”

To read Boyle’s complete testimony, click here:  www.meatinstitute.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/69982.

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