Monday, September 14, 2009

E-Verify Fate Hanging In The Balance

Alejandro Mayorkas, the naturalized Cuban immigrant citizen confirmed by the Senate last month as Director of U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security, said at a news conference today at DHS headquarters that he expects Congress to pass a timely renewal of authority for the DHS E-Verify program: "E-Verify is a tool to ensure a legal workforce. It assists employers in abiding by the law and it also protects the workforce. If E-Verify is not renewed, in my opinion we will need a different vehicle to accomplish those very fundamental objectives."

The E-Verify program will expire at the end of September if there is no Congressional reauthorization. Both houses of Congress have passed differing versions of the FY 10 Homeland Security appropriations bill, with the House reauthorizing the E-Verify program for two years in its measure, while the Senate enacted a permanent authorization of the program. It is not clear whether a conference committee can convene and deliver a report to the floor of both houses before the end of the month, but temporary reauthorization language could be included in the continuing resolution Congress will have to pass before the end of the month in order to keep paychecks flowing to federal government workers.

At the DHS press conference, Director Mayorkas noted DHS is evaluating the use of fingerprints, or other "biometrics," to verify citizenship for employment purposes, and the Department is preparing for a monumental onslaught of inquiries expected when anticipated comprehensive immigration reform legislation gives legal status to millions of currently undocumented workers in the U. S.

In response to a direct question whether it was possible E-Verify could cease to operate in a couple weeks, Director Mayorkas said, "We expect that Congress will provide the necessary authority to continue the program," which is now mandatory for all contractors doing federal government work.
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