April 08 2009 0comment

E-Verify rule delayed for further review

The Obama administration has postponed until May 21 the implementation of a new rule that requires federal contractors to use the E-Verify system for checking the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.

The rule originally was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 15, but the Department of Homeland Security delayed the implementation date until Feb. 20 after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the rule.

Now the rule won’t go into effect until May 21 “in order to permit the new administration an adequate opportunity to review the rule,” according to a notice to be published Jan. 30 in the Federal Register. When Barack Obama took office as president, he urged agencies to review new regulations that had not yet become effective.

“We are hopeful that the incoming administration will agree that E-Verify is the wrong solution at the wrong time,” said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center.

The chamber contends DHS lacks the authority to make use of E-Verify mandatory for contractors. The requirement would add a costly burden to businesses, the chamber argues.

E-Verify provides an Internet-based means for employers to compare the names and Social Security numbers of newly hired employees against government databases. About 100,000 businesses now participate in the program, which is now voluntary.

Bush administration officials contended the federal government has the right to ensure that the companies it does business with comply with immigration laws.

Randy Johnson, the chamber’s vice president in charge of labor policy, said the Obama administration’s decision to review the E-Verify regulation is “a promising development, but it doesn’t change the fact that the executive branch may not make E-Verify mandatory when Congress clearly said that it must be voluntary.”

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the incoming administration will make the right choice, but if not, it will be up to the court to settle the issue,” Johnson said.