SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney has introduced legislation to make permanent an electronic verification system for businesses to check the legal status of potential employees.
The Utah Republican said the Permanent E-Verify Act would be the first step in making the program mandatory nationwide.
“Last month, a record number of 144,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended at the southern border, marking the highest monthly amount in more than 13 years,” he said. “Congress needs to act now to address our illegal immigration crisis by closing legal loopholes and removing the magnets — like illegal employment — that drive illegal immigration."
Romney's bill would remove a provision from the law that requires Congress to repeatedly extend the program. E-Verify is set to expire Sept. 30.
E-Verify is a web-based system that allows businesses to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. It electronically matches information provided by employees on their I-9 form against Social Security and Department of Homeland Security records.
The program is mandatory for all federal employees and some government contractors.
About half of states, including Utah, require employers to use E-Verify. As of May 2019, there were 863,528 employers using E-Verify, accounting for about 14 percent of U.S. employers.
Utah calls for businesses with 15 or more employees to verify the legal status of new hires.
Romney has called the system "essential if we are going to turn off the magnet that draws people into the country illegally." He supports sanctioning employers that hire people who are not legally in the U.S.
He urged lawmakers to make E-Verify permanent while continuing to work on long-term fixes to secure the border, update asylum and trafficking laws, and make E-Verify mandatory nationwide.
Congress originally created three pilot programs for employers to confirm employment eligibility in 1996. Two of the programs no longer exist, but E-Verify has become a system employers across the country rely on.
Congress has continually extended E-Verify, often one year at a time.