Feds again push back E-Verify deadline

Federal officials have agreed to postpone enforcement of E-Verify for federal contractors to May 2009.

The federal government has agreed to postpone implementing the E-Verify regulation for federal contractors until May 21, 2009 at the earliest, a business group said today. The regulation requires contractors to check with the E-Verify system to ascertain whether workers are legally eligible to work in the United States.

Federal officials agreed to a request by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to postpone enforcement of the regulation so that the rule can be reviewed by the Barack Obama administration, the organization said in a news release.

It is the second time the federal government has pushed back the deadline. The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups earlier this month challenged the legitimacy of the E-Verify regulation in a lawsuit. The litigants were successful in delaying the starting date for enforcement to Feb. 20, from the initial date of Jan. 15.

Under the new agreement, federal contractors will not need to comply with E-Verify until May 21.

“The federal government agreed that the new administration needs time to re-think mandatory E-Verify use, particularly in light of the stressed economy,” Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber’s public policy law firm, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the incoming administration will agree that E-Verify is the wrong solution at the wrong time.”

The E-Verify program, jointly run by Homeland Security Department and the Social Security Administration, allows employers to electronically submit Social Security numbers for new hires and existing employees. If there is a match, the employee is deemed eligible to work; if not, there are procedures for further assessments.

Under President Bush’s executive order, about 168,000 federal contractors were to begin using E-Verify on Jan. 15. The order pertains to federal contracts of more than $100,000 and subcontracts of more than $3,000.

The lawsuit challenging the rule is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Co-plaintiffs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are the Society for Human Resource Management, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the HR Policy Association and the American Council on International Personnel.

The second postponement also reflects the Obama administration’s recent request to all executive departments to consider extending the effective date of published regulations that have not yet taken effect, the chamber said.