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HR groups troubled by immigration reform bill

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in Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The immigration reform proposal being debated in the U.S. Senate could burden employers and HR professionals with an unwieldy and complex worker-verification system, say groups representing the HR profession.

The Human Resource Initiative for a Legal Workforce, a coalition of HR groups led by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), says it will not endorse the proposal, which the full Senate is scheduled to debate after Memorial Day. Members of the HR Initiative contend that the proposal fails to correct problems with the existing “Basic Pilot” electronic employment verification system and would increase the amount of time and money employers spend verifying employment eligibility. (See their detailed objections in the box below.)

The sweeping immigration proposal, backed by the Bush Administration, marks the boldest and broadest attempt at immigration reform since 1986. It would legally recognize almost all of the 12 million undocumented workers already in the United States, create a new program for temporary workers, beef up border enforcement and establish a system for rating future immigrants that favors those with high levels of education and needed work skills.

The proposal is so broad, in fact, that opponents from across the political spectrum have found plenty to dislike about it. Business and HR groups object most to provisions that crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Mike Aitken, SHRM’s director of government affairs, says the proposed legislation would penalize employers who try to comply with the verification process, but whose employees use fraudulent or stolen documents to prove their eligibility.

Aitken said he has “serious reservations and concerns about the effectiveness and workability of the employment verification requirements.”

HR groups voiced particular fears that the government’s Basic Pilot employment verification software program will not be up to the task of handling the expected flood of transactions. Basic Pilot checks employee eligibility documentation against Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. About 5,000 businesses currently use Basic Pilot, which has been in place since 1997.

DHS estimates that between 30,000 and 40,000 employers per day would have to begin using the system to meet the requirements outlined in the Senate proposal.

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