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May 24, 2006

The Senate yesterday passed the Grassley (R-IA) Amendment by a vote of 58-40 that will require electronic verification of the immigration status of all new hires, beginning 18 months after the program is funded by Congress.  Employers who hired unauthorized workers after that time would be subject to a fine of $20,000 / worker.  Repeat violators could be subject to prison terms of up to three years.  The electronic verification system would replace the current I-9 compliance system with the hopes of disrupting the production and use of fraudulent documents.  The Senate amendment differs from HR4437 in that only new hires would be verified rather than all employees under the House version.  In this amendment Congress has again placed a tremendous onus on the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement a workable system of verifying employment authorization, the very nature of which is quite complex and fact-specific.  This is a daunting task that, if poorly or incompletely done, could create havoc for both U.S. and immigrant populations alike.