Last week, the U.S. Senate suspended work on its comprehensive immigration reform bill after several days of debate. An increasing number of concerns had been voiced by both Democrats and Republicans, and a grassroots effort began to emerge opposing the legislation. However, pressure continued to grow in the Senate to move a bill this month and yesterday, a tentative agreement was struck to bring the legislation back to the Senate floor – perhaps as early as next week – and to allow a package of amendments to be introduced and debated. At press time, SHRM’s Government Affairs staff is reviewing the anticipated amendments.
Throughout the Senate debate, SHRM has pushed for the establishment of a more effective employment verification system that is dependable, efficient, easy to use, and capable of preventing document fraud and identity theft. To help achieve this goal, earlier this year SHRM founded and leads the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce coalition, a partnership of HR groups and employee and employer organizations.
In many ways, the Senate bill (S.1348) represents a step in the right direction. However, SHRM has raised serious concerns about the feasibility and fairness of provisions that would require all employers to participate in the government's existing electronic employment verification system called the Basic Pilot Program. We believe the current Basic Pilot is flawed and inadequate. Among the problems our members have identified, it would force HR professionals to act as surrogate border patrol agents and hold them accountable for the shortcomings of a government-run verification system that has been shown to be inaccurate and unreliable.
On the House-side where legislation is still being developed, SHRM President and CEO Sue Meisinger testified before the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Committee on Ways and Meanson Thursday, June 7. In her statement, she explained SHRM's concerns about the Basic Pilot Program and our recommendations for an improved verification system. While SHRM has submitted statements on immigration to Congress in the past, this is the first time the Society's views were solicited on what would constitute a viable verification system.
SHRM and the other members of the HR Initiative coalition will continue to urge Congress to pass immigration reforms that ensure true employment verification - and fair treatment for employees and employers.