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Immigration Reform

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Prior to a vote on final passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) on June 27, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sought unanimous consent for votes on a package of 32 Republican and Democratic amendments including what was known as the Portman-Tester E-Verify amendment. The bipartisan proposal (SA 1634), cosponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and strongly supported by SHRM and our strategic affiliate, the American Council on International Personnel (ACIP), was designed to strengthen the employment verification system by streamlining its efficiency while reducing the risk of identity theft. To read Sen. Portman’s press release regarding SA 1634, click HERE.

Specifically, the Portman-Tester amendment would have:

  • Created a fully electronic verification system that integrates the paper-based Form I-9 into the E-Verify system and moves toward a more secure system that authenticates identity and verifies employment eligibility providing better certainty that the person being hired is authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Provided employers with a voluntary option to use a knowledge-based authentication (KBA) system if they used it for 100 percent of their new-hire verifications to assure the highest level of certainty, significantly improving the prevention of identity theft in the employment verification process.
  • Strengthened the safe harbor for employers for decisions made based on information provided by the E-Verify system.

In an effort to encourage his colleagues to vote on his amendment, Sen. Portman noted during the debate on the bill, “I believe strongly that if we do not have a stronger employee verification system at the workplace, this legislation is not going to work.” However, negotiations on considering additional amendments to the bill came to an abrupt halt when the Senate failed to reach consensus on how to consider other outstanding amendments, threatening to extend further debate on the measure. In the end, the Senate voted and subsequently passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act by a vote of 68 to 32 without considering any additional amendments. Following the Senate’s action, SHRM and ACIP issued a press release that is available HERE.

S. 744 now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. The fate of the bill remains unknown at this time. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.) has repeatedly emphasized that the House majority will introduce its own immigration reform bill, which is unlikely to include a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally; a key component for Senate Democrats.

Congress has adjourned for the one-week, July 4th recess. SHRM and ACIP will track developments in the House and will be actively engaged on behalf of the HR profession in advocating for changes to the bill. We will update SHRM and ACIP members on developments regarding E-Verify.

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