WASHINGTON – U .S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords this week signed on as the first Democratic co-sponsor of legislation that will create a new, reliable way for employers to verify the eligibility status of new hires.
“Employers are on the front lines of the illegal immigration crisis facing our country,” said Giffords. “They need a worker status verification system that works.”
The New Employee Verification Act, or H.R. 5515, would provide employers with a secure and accurate process for identifying employees, including the option to pursue in-depth background checks. It also would streamline the verification process for employers by eliminating the need for businesses to maintain employment-eligibility records. An advisory panel of public and private sector experts would help ensure the highest degree of accuracy, privacy and security.
“Our economy is going through a difficult period,” said Giffords. “The federal government should make it easier for businesses to comply with federal immigration laws, not more difficult.”
This is among the reasons the bill is supported by many in Arizona, which recently enacted a tough new law to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants.
“The fact that HR 5515 would improve on state law is a real benefit,” said W. Mark Clark, president and CEO of CODAC Behavioral Health Services. “The current Arizona system can cause delays in hiring people. It requires us to check two to three different systems which are duplicative and costly. We are in a workforce-challenged environment, and HR 5515 would be a significant improvement over the current verification system.”
These comments were echoed by Jack Camper, president and CEO of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. He said H.R. 5515 creates a better system than “Arizona’s draconian employer sanctions law.”
The New Employee Verification Act was introduced by U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, a Republican who serves on the House Ways & Means Committee. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona is among the bill’s 13 co-sponsors.
Federal law prohibits the hiring of any individual unauthorized to work in the United States. But the law has been criticized by employers as unwieldy and enforced by a system riddled with fraud and abuse.
Johnson said the bill “recognizes that our current system is broken and draws upon the latest advances in technology in order to chart a new course. This proposal will help restore our faith in the rule of law, and restore the blessings of legal immigration our nation has long enjoyed.”
The bill’s supporters include the Greater Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce, the Marana Chamber of Commerce, Peter Likins of the Southern Arizona Town Hall, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Dan Danner, executive vice president of NFIB, praised the New Employee Verification Act for including reasonable employee verification requirements that small business owners can comply with and understand. “All immigration reforms that include provisions requiring employers to verify that employees are eligible to work in the U.S. need to take into account how they will impact small businesses,” said Dan Danner, executive vice president of NFIB. “In order for immigration reforms to be successful, the enforcement provisions need to be workable, efficient and fair without over burdening small business owners. NFIB commends Representative Giffords for cosponsoring the New Employee Verification Act.”