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Many problems with status verification

One of the touchiest hot buttons of the immigration debate centers on employment, with anti-immigration forces insisting that there should be stiff penalties on employers who hire undocumented workers.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, says it is nowhere as easy as it sounds to verify the identity and eligible work status of job applicants.

In a guide put together to help state and local policymakers and advocates, the association says the crux of the problem is a huge demand for entry-level workers and an extremely limited supply of legal visas.

One suggestion often brought forward is making it mandatory for every employer to check the social security number of every job applicant through a program commonly called “E-Verify.”

Key Points

• The E-Verify system has problems with the accuracy of databases.

• Employers worry about the consequences of mistakes.

• An immigration lawyers group says reform is the only real answer.

The program was started in 1996 as the “basic pilot” system and was rebranded as E-Verify by the Department of Homeland Security. Simply put, the program allows an employer to submit the name, date of birth and Social Security number used by a job applicant on the immigrant employment I-9 form to the Department of Homeland Security, which matches it against its own database and that of the Social Security Administration.

AILA says the problems within the system are serious. Not the least of the issues centered on privacy, civil liberties, budgetary and technological questions that must be addressed before the pilot program is ready for “prime time,” is the fact the database has a high percentage of outdated and/or inaccurate information.

One of the biggest problems with inaccurate data is that they can prevent an applicant who is fully eligible to work from being hired.

“The system also does not catch those illegal workers who have a stolen identity,” says Sarah Doll Heeke, an immigration lawyer in Dodge City. “If you have what appear to be a valid Social Security number and birth date, it won’t be kicked back.”

Employers are concerned that a movement to make E-Verify mandatory will multiple the number of people affected by mistakes, and that a parallel movement to penalize employers for mistakes will put them in an untenable position.

The flip side of the risk of unknowingly hiring an illegal worker is refusing to hire a legal one. For employers there are penalties on that front, too, in the form of litigation from applicants who face discrimination in the hiring process as companies struggle to avoid penalties for hiring illegal workers.

In summary, AILA says, “All told, sanctions on employers and efforts to make employment eligibility verification mandatory nationwide will not solve our nation’s immigration crisis. Only updating our immigration admissions laws to meet reality will restore control and order to our immigration system.”


GIVING NOTICE: E-Verify participation posters must be displayed by participating employers.

This article published in the February, 2012 edition of KANSAS FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.