By Stephanie Flemmons, Staff Writer
(Created: Monday, August 4, 2008 3:27 PM CDT)
U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas), a long time critic of illegal immigration, voted for a bill that extends the current immigration worksite enforcement system known as E-Verify.
E-Verify, is a partnership between the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security that allows employers to check the work authorization status of newly hired employees.
McCall Avery, Johnson’s press secretary, said this is a voluntary plan for employers to use and the only tool in the government that offers to help employers comply with immigration laws.
She said Johnson plans to reintroduce the bill to make it a mandatory system to the next Congress.
“Mr. Johnson was an original cosponsor of the bill and as the Senior Republican on the Social Security Subcommittee was instrumental in reaching the compromise that made the legislation possible,” said McCall Avery, Johnson’s press secretary.
The House passed H.R. 6633, introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), by a vote of 407-2-4. The funding for SSA has been a point of conflict since DHS did not pay SSA for its work in 2005 and 2006. On July 25, the two agencies finally reconciled budgets and SSA was paid for previous work.
“Employers want, need and deserve a reliable employee verification system and I want to give it to them,” Johnson said.
“This legislation strikes the proper balance between extending this needed program and ensuring seniors, people with disabilities, and their families receive the support they have earned,” said Johnson, Social Security Subcommittee Ranking Member. “Congress is finally recognizing Social Security’s essential role in worksite enforcement by making sure the agency is paid for their hard work. Today’s bill is a step in the right direction, but this Congress must get to work on real immigration reform.”
“This extension is, unfortunately, the least we can do to provide a workable tool for employers who want to do the right thing and verify that their new employees are authorized to work in this country. America needs real immigration reform. We need to protect our borders and make sure Americans are not fighting for jobs with people who are here illegally.”
Avery said Johnson worked tirelessly with Rep. Giffords because he knew something needed to be implemented before Congress adjourned for five weeks.
“This is unique, because although Mr. Johnson has his own employee verification plans, he helped Rep. Giffords because he knew they needed to do something in order to move forward,” Avery said.
Johnson’s Employee Verification Act will create a mandatory system for all employers to follow.
It is designed to ensure a legal workforce, safeguard workers’ identity and protect Social Security.
Johnson believes the legislation draws upon lessons learned from the past to help guarantee a legal U.S. workforce for the future. He believes the current failed, paper-based I-9 screening process is replaced with an Electronic Employee Verification System, known as EEVS.
The system would rely on the use of fewer, more secure identity documents and would be built upon the new hire reporting process in each state. This program is already used by 90 percent of employers and was put in place a dozen years ago to track down dead beat dads.
“For Americans, work authorization would be confirmed only through the Social Security Administration,” Johnson said. “This ensures that there is no “Big Brother” law enforcement agency building new databases on law abiding citizens.”
For non-citizens, work authorization would be confirmed through the Department of Homeland Security that has the databases on visa and immigration status.