Tucson Tragedy: How Rep. Giffords Was a Close Partner With SHRM

There are many secondary stories that flow out of the weekend shooting in Tucson that killed six people, including U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, and seriously wounded 14 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

One of those secondary stories is noteworthy for HR professionals, because Rep. Giffords was not only a close partner with SHRM, but she was one of the two House members sponsoring H.R. 6633, a temporary five-year extension of the government’s E-Verify program that was passed by a vote of 407-2 in August 2008.

Giffords, like SHRM, saw the passage of the five-year E-Verify extension as a temporary measure. In April 2009, Giffords co-sponsored another bill — the New Employee Verification Act (H.R. 2028) — that would replace E-Verify. The bill, which was supported by SHRM and introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, stalled in committee and was never voted upon by the recently concluded 111th Congress.

Giffords: “A realistic piece of legislation”

According to a story on SHRM.org:

The bill would require U.S. employers to use a nationwide electronic employment verification system that would be based on a new-hire system and database used by states to enforce child support payments. According to government estimates, nearly 90 percent of U.S. employers use the database to track child support payments.

Supporters of the proposal claim that the child support database is more accurate and less prone to errors and employee fraud than the E-Verify system — which uses the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) database to verify the validity of new hires’ Social Security numbers. The system proposed in the legislation would also use the Social Security database, but the law would require the SSA to improve the system by cleaning up the data and eliminating errors.

The proposal has the support of a coalition of employer groups called the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce. Coalition members include groups such as the Society for Human Resource Management, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Franchise Association…

The legislation received initial bipartisan support with six co-sponsors—three Democrats and three Republicans. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., a co-sponsor of H.R. 2028, called the bill a “realistic piece of legislation” and a workable alternative to E-Verify.

The proposal would supersede state immigration laws that require employers to use the E-Verify system. Giffords told reporters that the provision to supersede state laws was needed to end the current patchwork of state immigration laws and regulations that have created headaches for employers with locations in multiple states.”

Representative Giffords (center) with Arizona SHRM Members on Capitol Hill in April 2009 (Photo courtesy of SHRM).
Representative Giffords (center) with Arizona SHRM Members on Capitol Hill in April 2009 (photo courtesy of SHRM).

Giffords also pushed another measure to increase the H-1B visa cap. According to SHRM.org, “the Innovation Employment Act, introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., would double the number of non immigrant worker visas available each year under the H-1B program, increasing the general cap from 65,000 a year to 130,000 and eliminating the student cap. The legislation would increase the H-1B cap to 180,000 if the 130,000 cap is reached.”

The Innovation Employment Act also stalled in committee and was never voted on by the 111th Congress.

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Giffords relationship with SHRM included addressing a large group of SHRM members, along with Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), at a private Washington breakfast held during SHRM’s Employment Law & Legislative Conference in 2009.

“A unique perspective” as a small business owner

Although immigration reform and many of the other issues Giffords worked with SHRM on were not a big focus in the mid-term elections this past November, Mike Aitken, Government Affairs director for the Society for Human Resource Management, said that SHRM had planned to circle back with Giffords office on these initiatives later this year.

“Rep. Giffords has a unique perspective and background as a small business owner,” Aitken said, “and she discussed HR issues as a small business owner. She was familiar with the issues that many of our members face on a day-to-day basis.”

He added, “SHRM has a great relationship with Rep. Giffords. She was extremely gracious. We’re saddened and shocked at the turn of events in Arizona, both for Rep. Giffords as well as for those who lost their lives or were injured. We’re hopeful they will all make a speedy recovery.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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