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WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined with several of his colleagues to reintroduce legislation that helps businesses comply with immigration laws by certifying the legal status of their workforce.

The Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act would permanently authorize and expand the E-Verify program, a web–based system that assists employers in determining whether current or prospective employees are authorized to work in the United States. The bill requires employers to use the program to determine workers’ eligibility.

“Employers need a commonsense, cost-effective tool that allows them to hire with confidence. Law enforcement must be empowered to hold bad actors accountable when they willfully violate immigration rules while hiring employees. E-Verify does both. It has a proven track record of success and should be permanently reauthorized and made mandatory for employers,” Boozman said.

The Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act is authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has introduced the bill in previous Congresses. Boozman has long-supported Grassley’s efforts and pushed for adoption of E-Verify as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives prior to joining the Senate.

“Businesses across the country have opted to use the E-Verify system to help them comply with our immigration laws. E-Verify is a proven tool for employers, including myself, that helps reduce incentives for illegal immigration and safeguards job opportunities for Americans and other legal workers. Expanding the system to every workplace will improve accountability for all businesses and take an important step toward putting American workers first,” Grassley said.

Currently, employers voluntarily submit information from an employee’s Form I-9 to the Department of Homeland Security through the E-Verify system, which works in partnership with the Social Security Administration to determine worker eligibility. There is no cost for employers to use E-Verify. More than 750,000 businesses use the program today.

E-Verify was established in 1996 as a pilot program with employers in five states allowed to participate. The pilot program was reauthorized in 2001, expanded to employers in every state in 2003 and reauthorized several times since 2008. 

The Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act does the following:

  • Permanently reauthorizes the E-Verify program that was created in 1996. 
  • Makes the program mandatory for all employers within one year of date of enactment, requires federal contractors and agencies to use the program immediately, and directs “critical employers,” as identified by the Secretary of Homeland Security, to use the system within 30 days of designation. 
  • Increases penalties for employers who illegally hire undocumented workers.
  • Reduces the liability that employers face if they participate in E-Verify when it involves the wrongful termination of an individual. 
  • Allows employers to use E-Verify before a person is hired if consent is provided by the employee.
  • Requires employers to check the status of all current employees within 3 years. 
  • Requires employers to terminate the employment of those found unauthorized to work due to a check through E-Verify. 
  • Helps ensure that the Social Security Administration catches multiple uses of Social Security numbers by requiring them to develop algorithms to detect anomalies.
  • Establishes a demonstration project in a rural area or area without internet capabilities to assist small businesses in complying with the participation requirement. 
  • Amends the criminal code to make clear that defendants who possess or otherwise use identity information not their own without lawful authority and in the commission of another felony is still punishable for aggravated identity fraud, regardless of the defendant’s “knowledge” of the victim. 
  • Requires employers to re-verify an employee’s immigration status if the employment authorization is due to expire. 
  • Establishes an Employer Compliance Inspection Center (ECIC) within ICE to streamline program audits and review compliance with worker eligibility laws.

Along with Boozman, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).