Chamber Sues Over E-Verify System

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenges the legality of requiring federal contractors and sub-contractors to use the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify system.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued the Department of Homeland Security Dec. 23, challenging the legality of the agency's E-Verify program. The Chamber contends the program, which requires federal contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify to confirm prospective employees are legally eligible to work, is illegal under federal law.

The Chamber's lawsuit challenges the government's use of an executive order coupled with federal procurement law to make E-Verify mandatory for federal contractors with projects exceeding $100,000 and for sub-contractors with projects exceeding $3,000. The Chamber also challenged expanding E-Verify to require the re-authorization of existing workers.

Joining the Chamber in the lawsuit are the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Society for Human Resources Management, the American Council on International Personnel and the HR Policy Association.

"This massive expansion of E-Verify is not only bad policy, it's unlawful," Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, said in a statement. "The administration can't use an Executive Order to circumvent federal immigration and procurement laws. Federal law explicitly prohibits the secretary of Homeland Security from making E-Verify mandatory or from using it to re-authorize the existing workforce."

The executive order requires companies to E-Verify all new hires and employees assigned to prime contracts awarded as of Jan. 15 of at least $100,000 and 120 days and subcontracts of $3,000.

"The DHS intends to expand E-Verify on an unprecedented scale in a very short timeframe, and to impose liability on government contractors who are unable to comply," said Randy Johnson, vice president of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits at the U.S. Chamber. "Given the current economy, now is not the time to add more bureaucracy and billions of dollars in compliance costs to America's businesses."

Employer groups have long complained that E-Verify is too costly and imperfect to require use by federal contractors and subcontractors. The Chamber contends that only Congress, not a federal agency like Homeland Security, has the legal authority to impose mandatory compliance.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, is Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Chertoff, et al., and seeks to declare the executive order null and void.