AMI applauded House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who this week introduced the “Legal Workforce Act of 2011,” which amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to make the electronic eligibility verification system (E-Verify) mandatory and permanent and creates a voluntary pilot program for biometric identity verification. 

The plan also proposes several modifications to the current E-Verify system. The bill limits documentation of legal status to unexpired passports, unexpired permanent resident cards or employment authorization cards (with photos), or a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated card containing a photo, biometric data, employment authorization number and anti-tamper security features.  Applicants may also use a Social Security Number (SSN) Card or State Department-issued Certificate of Birth Abroad if presented with an unexpired driver’s license, military ID or tribal ID. 

Under the legislation reverification of employees of the federal, state or local government, employees would be limited to “critical infrastructure sites,” employees performing work under federal or state contracts and employees who have previously had mismatched or problematic SSNs. Firms selling commercially available, off- the shelf products, which would include food and agricultural products would be exempt.

Smith’s bill considers an entity to have complied with the system notwithstanding a technical or procedural failure if there was a good faith effort to comply.  The Smith bill states that an employer who establishes it is good faith compliance shall not be liable to applicants, employees, or federal, state, or local government for actions taken in good faith reliance on information provided by the system. 

In addition, Chairman Smith’s bill directs the Social Security Administration to establish with DHS a system that compares name and SSN data, and reports whether the SSN is valid, and to update the date in the system in a prompt manner.  It also directs DHS to make payments to the SSA for costs involved in implementing and operating such a system.  It gives DHS and SSA authority to block SSNs subject to unusual multiple use. 

Finally, the Smith bill includes a pilot program allowing DHS to develop a program in consultation with SSA and the National Institute for Standards & Technology.  The program will provide for identity authentication utilizing the services of private sector entities, using biometric data maintained by SSA and DHS and encrypted to protect applicants.  The pilot program is substantively similar to the Secure Electronic Employment Verification System proposed by AMI.

AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle voiced support for the bill in testimony submitted today to the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

“AMI applauds Chairman Smith’s efforts to improve the electronic employment verification system through the introduction of H.R.2164, the Legal Workforce Act. This legislation is a critical first step in providing a practical and functional worksite electronic employment verification system that is vital to achieving a stable, legal workforce,” Boyle said.

To view Boyle’s full testimony, go to http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/69982.