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Core Provisions: On June 14, 2011, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164), a bill amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to implement a fully electronic (”E-Verify”) worker verification system. The bill would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers, repealing the current paper-based I-9 system. Mandatory E-Verify participation would be phased in by the Act in six-month increments based on a business’s number of employees-e.g., within six months of enactment, businesses with more than 10,000 employees would be required to use E-Verify. Businesses with 500-9,999 employees, 20 to 499 employees, and 1 to 19 employees would have 12, 18, or 24 months to comply, respectively.
The bill also contains special provisions for agricultural employees, providing that employees performing “agricultural labor or services” are not subject to the bill’s E-Verify provisions until 36 months after the Act’s enactment. Furthermore, a seasonal agricultural employee will not be considered a “new hire” subject to verification if the individual returns to work for their previous employer. Finally, the bill contains a safe harbor provision for employers that act in good faith and also explicitly preempts any state laws mandating E-Verify use for employment eligibility purposes, although states and localities may condition business licenses on the requirement that employers comply with the federal E-Verify law in good faith.
Status: Rep. Smith introduced H.R. 2164 with 13 co-sponsors on June 14, 2011. The Bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the Committee on Ways and Means on the same day.