Washington, D.C — President Bush has just signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to use the "E-Verify" system to determine that all new hires are eligible for employment in the United States and to determine that all employees working on federal contracts – including current employees hired in accordance with pre-existing rules and standards – are also eligible for such employment.
"While AGC supports the full enforcement of our immigration laws, AGC remains committed to their comprehensive reform, and the association questions whether this piecemeal measure will hasten or delay the day when we will see that kind of reform," said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive office of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). "Ironically, we also find ourselves questioning whether the executive order is itself in violation of our current laws," he added.
The new requirement will take effect only after the relevant federal agencies revise the regulations that govern federal contracts. AGC will carefully examine the new executive order and the proposed revisions of the regulations to determine if the changes would cause problems for the contractors responsible for constructing and maintaining the federal infrastructure. AGC also will investigate whether or not the changes conflict with the current immigrations laws, and if so, may contemplate even stronger action.
Immediately, AGC will also begin seeking further guidance on a host of questions that the executive order raises, including:
- Who is a "contractor" for the purposes of the executive order? Does it include a subcontractor? Does it include a material supplier? Does it include a vendor of commercial items?
- What - if any - are the procedures and deadlines for employers and/or employees to correct the many mistakes that even the E-Verify system will inevitably make?
- How should employers deal with individuals who can satisfy the pre-existing rules and standards - which Congress has written into the Immigration and Nationality Act - but not the E-Verify system that the President has mandated entirely on his own? How do employers avoid getting caught in the middle?
- What are the penalties for non-compliance? Should federal contractors anticipate debarment for even honest mistakes made in ignorance of technical requirements?