Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has introduced legislation to require all U.S. employers to use E-Verify to check the work eligibility of their employees.

A House version of Grassley’s bill, the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1147), passed the lower chamber’s Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote in March, but has not been brought to the House floor. The legislation has support among many GOP lawmakers, but has drawn opposition from Democrats and some Republicans who argue that it could harm the agriculture sector of the economy.

E-Verify is a voluntary program for most employers. It allows employers to compare workers’ I-9 employment eligibility information against federal data to make sure they are legally able to work in the country.

Grassley introduced his bill, the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2015 (S. 1032), on April 21, saying that E-Verify “assists businesses that want to comply with immigration laws” and protects work opportunities for documented workers.

Grassley’s bill would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers within one year of enactment and mandatory within 30 days for employers deemed “critical” by the Department of Homeland Security. It would also stiffen penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

The bill’s fate is uncertain. The House version drew the rebuke of a bipartisan mix of 61 House members in a March 26 letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

“While we agree with the need to stem the flow of illegal immigration and are supportive of measures like E-Verify, implementing mandatory E-Verify without also enacting strong reforms ensuring our farmers have access to a legal, reliable and stable workforce will cause serious problems for our domestic agricultural industry and our nation’s economy,” the letter said.

E-Verify continues to grow across the country, with approximately 580,000 American employers enrolled as of the beginning of March.

BAL Analysis: Efforts to make E-Verify mandatory face an uncertain road ahead. The House bill has already drawn some opposition, and the Senate bill would require bipartisan support. BAL will continue to monitor the legislative developments in Congress and will provide updates as information becomes available.

Copyright © 2016 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact