|Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus bill to revive the struggling U.S. economy. This multibillion dollar package is now being debated in the Senate. Under consideration with this bill are several provisions meant to protect U.S. workers and ensure that stimulus package funds were not used for illegal employment. |
One area of focus is on the use of the E-verify system. The amendments to the bill require that all public and private businesses and contractors that receive money from the stimulus package must verify the status of their employees through the web-based E-Verify system.
The E-Verify system is a free, voluntary service offered by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows participating employers to check the immigration status of their newly hired employees using information contained in the agencies’ databases.
Proponents of the E-Verify amendments state that these requirements will benefit businesses that abide by hiring rules and ensure that stimulus funds are given only to eligible individuals. Many of the proponents are also heavily anti-immigration.
However, there are many objections to these requirements, a good deal of which are coming from immigrant rights groups who argue that the E-Verify system is flawed and relies on inaccurate databases. They maintain that the requirements will cause discrimination against foreign-born workers and delay stimulus funds from being distributed. It is estimated that only 1% of employers are currently registered with E-Verify and that it may take weeks or months for businesses to register and become eligible to receive stimulus funds. Additionally, U.S. entities, mostly small businesses, would incur billions in extra costs.
There is an additional and serious issue regarding the E-Verify system that would directly impact unemployed Americans and valid foreign-born workers. The E-Verify system is susceptible to database errors and delays that may prevent U.S. citizens and legal workers from being hired or receiving paychecks. It is estimated that the Social Security Administration’s error rate is around 4% and that the Department of Homeland Security determines 5% of its inquiries to be tentative nonconfirmations, meaning they cannot be confirmed and they must contact the DHS.
In addition, another area of amendments involves the proposal to prevent U.S. employers who use stimulus funds from hiring H-1B workers. This would include banks and financial institutions, which are the some of the primary employers of H-1B workers.
While the exact numbers of H-1B workers being employed in the U.S. is unknown, this category of employment visa is one of the most popular as it is designed for highly-skilled professional workers to be employed on a temporary basis. Advocates of the measure believe that the amendment will protect U.S. workers and require U.S. businesses to hire American laborers.
Those against the changes disagree, stating that reducing U.S. businesses’ ability to accesses highly-skilled, professional workers through the H-1B program will place the U.S. in a less competitive position internationally. They argue that these new amendments will not prevent illegal foreign labor and, in fact, will actually encourage underground hiring and other practices that will decrease the number of available jobs in the U.S. market.
The debate surrounding the immigration reform contained in the stimulus package is extensive. Even the larger stimulus package itself is being examined and contested by many. While the final decision is still up in the air, what is clear is that a careful examination and revaluation of immigration policy is needed.
At 6:00pm~7:30pm CST on Feb. 13, 2009, Attorney Jane Xu will hold a Seminar in English at our Chicago office. She will talk about H-1B, NIW, EB-1, etc. If you are interested in this seminar, please click the following link to register:
At 10:30am~12:00pm CST on Feb. 14, 2009, Attorney Victor Bush will hold a seminar in English at our Houston office. He will talk about NIW, EB-1, O-1, J waiver, etc. If you are interested in this seminar, please click the following link to register: