Immigration Changes: Title III and Electronic Employment Verification

While multi-tiered and complex, there are certain staffing-related elements of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act that recruiters and staffing departments nationwide should monitor.

The pending immigration legislation would do many things, including the hiring of thousands of additional border patrol agents; instituting the new “Z” worker visa; and adopting new deportation provisions.

Perhaps the most interesting element for the staffing world is Title III, which would create a mandatory employment eligibility verification system to electronically verify the eligibility of every worker in the country.

Title III touches on document verification requirements; records that must be kept by employers; protections against discrimination; ID theft prevention and privacy protections; information sharing; and other miscellaneous policies.

According to the pending legislation, Title III “would make it unlawful for an employer to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, or continue to employ, an alien for employment in the United States knowing, or with reckless disregard, that the alien is unauthorized to work.”

In essence, this employment verification system would determine whether an individual’s identity and employment eligibility is consistent with the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records.

Yet Jim Babka, co-founder of Downsize DC, says database errors might find “tens of thousands caught in a system where there is an error holding them back from employment, and they’ll have to deal with the customer service from hell in the bowels of Washington, DC.”

This also means that for employers who do find desirable candidates, “a red-tape snafu might hold up that hiring,” says Babka.

Verify, Verify, Verify

The main issue is to really confirm that everyone is qualified, according to Robert Meltzer, chief executive officer of VisaNow.

Meltzer urges companies to take verification very seriously, noting that “hiring departments can’t go through the old verification process; now they have to make sure it’s not a bogus Social Security card,” he says.

Beyond streamlining how best to investigate workers’ documents, he also says companies need to take the time to create all required policies.

One such policy change would require employers to retain copies of documents related to verifications and any correspondence relating to an employee’s identity or employment eligibility.

In addition, the legislation would require every employer to submit employee data for new hires to the federal employment verification system. (The system would start out on a voluntary basis until mandatory participation is required.)

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However, the National Immigration Law Center says the employment eligibility verification system has “absurd implementation timelines.”

The advocacy group also says the proposed system “is so poorly designed that significant increases in discrimination, privacy lapses, and multitudes of unnecessary firings are inevitable.”

Prepare Now for Compliance Changes

Yet companies should not wait to examine their HR processes, because if and when the current pending immigration legislation passes, there will be tremendous compliance and regulation changes, according to VisaNow’s Meltzer.

Meltzer says his company is advising clients to monitor the unfolding events closely.

“If passed, the new legislation will result in an urgent need on the part of employers to review their internal hiring and screening processes. Companies that employ a large number of low-skilled workers will need to make extensive revisions to their HR practices, resulting in the processing of a substantial amount of documentation to ensure compliance,” he says.

“I think something is going to pass the Senate, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the House. This bill is not going to make anyone happy,” he adds.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.