On June 9, the Department of Homeland Security designated E-Verify as the electronic employment eligibility verification system that all federal contractors must use as required by Executive Order 12989, as amended. (An “executive order” is an action by the President that has the legal authority of a law, often dealing with regulations or the workings of agencies to help direct their operation.)
E-Verify is a free Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration. It allows enrolled employers to quickly confirm the legal status of new hires.
"The basic principle is this: if you're working for the federal government and you’re being paid with federal taxes, you ought to make sure that your employees are obeying federal law when it comes to their employment authorization, and this executive order as implemented in detail by the regulation will do precisely that," announced Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "E-Verify is a proven tool that helps employers immediately verify the legal working status for all new hires."
President George W. Bush amended Executive Order 12989 in order to direct all federal departments and agencies to require contractors, as a condition of each future federal contract, to agree to use E-Verify to attest to the employment eligibility of all persons hired during the contract term and all persons performing work within the United States on the federal contract.
When asked at the press conference if he knew how many contractors this executive order would involve, Chertoff said, “I think we were potentially talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions of workers. This is going to apply to contractors who are getting a new contract. Once this comes into effect they're going to be required to run all their employees through E-verify. Or if they have a contract and they're going to bring new employees onto the contract, they're going to have to do that.
“Since I can' t predict what contracting is going to be like in the next two or three years I can't give you a precise number, but it's going to be at a minimum hundreds of thousands and I think maybe millions of people will be run through that program.”
According to the DHS, more than 69,000 employers currently rely on E-Verify to determine that their new hires are authorized to work in the United States. Employers have run more than 4 million employment verification queries so far in fiscal year 2008. Of those queries, 99.5 percent of qualified employees are cleared automatically by E-Verify.
While the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors―National Association has not issued a direct response to this executive order, it has in the past come out against mandatory E-Verify compliance. At its website, PHCC cites errors in the Social Security Administration’s database, burdens on small businesses, a “labyrinth of conflicting laws and regulations,” and the potential for liability.
To view the executive order, visit www.whitehouse.gov.