White House Stresses Employer Penalties in Immigration Reform Bill

Tough new penalties for those who employ illegal workers are a top selling point for the immigration reform bill that President Bush supports. On May 30, the White House posted a memorandum on its news page summarizing the provisions that apply to employers. It is carrot and stick, fortunately, because the bill also would create a "sophisticated" electronic employment verification system, according to the memo, that will allow employers to verify status of applicants. Swift & Co., the meatpacking titan that became ICE's poster child for illegal employment last December when six of its plants were raided, and other employers singled out by the DHS unit have said there should be a better verification system available to them.

All U.S. employers will be required by the bill to use the verification system, called EEVS in the memo. And no temporary worker visas will be issued until the system is established. The system's foundation will be information shared from several electronic databases, including Social Security records, passport records, states' birth and death records, and states' driver's license data. The system will allow employers to verify citizenship documents' authenticity by accessing ID photographs from government databases, which is not possible currently, the memo says.

For workers, the bill limits ID documents that will be acceptable to U.S. passports, DHS or State Department documents issued to ensure identity for non-citizens, state-issued REAL ID Act-compliant licenses presented with a Social Security card, and "for a limited period before implementation of the REAL ID Act, a state-issued license with a photograph that can be verified by DHS, presented along with a birth certificate and Social Security card," according to the memo, which says the system will have audit features to flag multiple uses of the same names and Social Security numbers and possible misuse by employers.

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