Senate stimulus bill lacks House's E-Verify provision

The Senate's $838 billion economic stimulus package approved today would not require E-Verify employment verification for all contracts created through stimulus funding; the House version of the measure has that requirement.

Specifically, the House approved language in its measure specifying that none of its $820 billion stimulus funds may be used to enter into a contract with an entity that does not participate in E-Verify.

The E-Verify program, jointly run by the Homeland Security Department and Social Security Administration, allows employers to electronically submit Social Security numbers for new hires and existing employees. If there is a match, the employee is deemed eligible to work. If not, there are procedures for further assessments.

The program has been criticized for relatively high error rates in the government databases used to determine initial eligibility. A DHS study determined that about 4,000 U.S. workers in every 1 million would be initially denied eligibility because of the database errors.

Advocacy groups are lobbying both for and against E-Verify, which is also known as Basic Pilot. About 100,000 employers have volunteered to participate in the program.

Supporters of the E-Verify provision argue that it would help direct jobs to U.S. citizens rather than illegal aliens. “It would be unconscionable for Congress to spend more than $800 billion of borrowed money without including minimal protections to ensure that the money puts Americans back to work," Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said in a statement today.

However, the Immigration Policy Center warns that the high error rates will slow the stimulus effect and jeopardize U.S. workers who might be erroneously deemed ineligible to work.

“The fact is: expanding E-Verify now would decelerate the Stimulus Package and slow America’s economic recovery,” the policy center said Feb. 5. “Advocating for expansion of a deeply flawed program is irresponsible and antithetical to the U.S. worker.”

A national business group representing a large number of federal contractors has been fighting E-Verify in a lawsuit. Under an executive order from President George W. Bush, about 168,000 federal contractors were to begin using E-Verify Jan. 15, but that deadline was pushed back to May 20. The order pertains to federal contracts worth more than $100,000 and subcontracts worth more than $3,000.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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