NOVEMBER 17, 2008
Caving in to the powerful lobbying effort of business groups, the Department of Homeland Security will drastically relax a work eligibility system designed to crack down on government contractors that hire illegal immigrants.
Over the summer the Bush Administration announced with great fanfare that, by January 2009, all government contractors—nearly 200,000 with a combined workforce of around 4 million—would have to verify employees’ legal status with a federal database (E-Verify) operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.
Outraged business groups immediately fought the plan, arguing that it was unduly burdensome and singled out certain firms. They also launched an intense lobbying campaign and bombarded the government with more than 1,600 comments opposing the proposed rules.
The effort paid off with Homeland Security drastically reducing its original plan by exempting small businesses—firms with federal contracts worth less than $100,000—from verifying their employees’ legal status and not requiring others to check their entire workforce but rather only workers used in specific jobs. This essentially allows firms with government contracts to hire illegal aliens.
The severely weakened requirements were revealed last week in a lengthy rule published in the Federal Register, the U.S. government’s official publication for rules, proposed rules, executive orders and other presidential documents. Now nearly 3 million federal contractors will be exempt from verifying workers’ status.
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