Don't make E-verify retroactive, industry group says

The Professional Services Council opposes Senate legislation would require federal contractors to use the E-Verify system for new and existing employees.

Legislation approved by the Senate that would require federal contractors to use the E-Verify employment verification system is too broad and goes beyond what is required for federal agencies, according to the Professional Services Council (PSC), which represents service contractors.

The Senate's version of the Homeland Security Department fiscal 2010 appropriations bill includes a provision that would require federal contractors to use E-Verify for new hires and existing employees. By contrast, federal agencies are only required to use E-Verify for new hires, the group said.

“It is difficult to comprehend why government contractors, alone among all employers, must use E-Verify for existing employees,” Stan Soloway, president of the PSC, said July 30. “The requirement does not even apply to the government itself. The cost and administrative burdens of this unique requirement, to the government and on contractors alike, will be substantial.”

Also, the Senate measure also goes beyond what is required of federal contractors in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) rule that pertains to E-Verify and is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 8, Soloway said. The rule and enforcement has been delayed four times while the Obama Administration has reviewed it.

Under the Sept. 8 acquisition rule, there are exemptions for contractor employees with security clearances or Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 credentials, existing employees not working on federal contracts, and contracts under a certain dollar threshold, among others.

The Senate provision would remove any flexibility that DHS has to further address the applicability of the final rule as part of the Obama Administration’s review of the implementation of the final FAR rule and the overall E-Verify program. While this review is underway, DHS should not be constrained by statutory language limiting its ability to exercise its best judgment on how the final rule should be implemented,” Soloway said.

The Homeland Security Department runs the Web-based E-Verify system in partnership with the Social Security Administration. About 134,000 employers currently use E-Verify, and 12 states require its use to some degree. The House version of the legislation does not have a similar provision.

Employers enter Social Security numbers of prospective new hires and existing employees into E-Verify. If there is a match, the employee is deemed eligible for work. If not, the employee is advised to contact SSA. The system has been criticized for alleged high error rates.