In the first half of 2011, numerous state legislatures, the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress, and, most recently, SHRM, have been vocal regarding employer’s obligations to verify immigration status.
In early 2010, I began a “beta test” on the new E-Verify system at my employer in Minnesota. Although it was not yet mandatory, we had heard rumors that the Feds could push in that direction. E-Verify also promised a more accurate and immediate response to work authorization inquiries over the traditional I-9 (doesn’t take much).
But how accurate is it really?
In January 2010, a study commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, and conducted by research firm Westat, found that approximately half (54%) of unauthorized workers run through E-Verify receive an inaccurate finding of being work authorized. They claim that this is mostly due to identity theft.
That is not stopping states from making the use of the system mandatory. Eighteen out of 50 states and the District of Columbia currently require employers (either public and private, or just public) to use E-Verify.
This past May, Arizona’s law requiring state businesses use E-Verify system, and subsequent penalties, was ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court to be Constitutional (Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, No. 09-115).
My local Congressman, Rep. Lamar Smith, is one of the latest in line to support the adoption of the system nationwide and has been very vocal in his support of the Legal Workforce Act. This federal mandate would require all employers to use the E-Verify system. Rep. Smith claims that this will open up millions of jobs for American workers and “reduce the job magnet that creates illegal immigration.”
You think so Rep. Smith? This system is going to solve all the world’s problems? What’s to stop people from continuing to steal identities and circumvent the system?
Lisa Roney, who was Director of Research and Evaluation in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Policy and Strategy in 1996 (when E-Verify was first implemented), says that while mandatory E-Verify could help the economy by opening up more jobs to the native U.S. Workers, it could also take workers off the books, and encourage employers to turn to private contractors, thus forcing families into poverty.
The small business industry claims that the use of E-Verify would also be taxing on their time. Rights advocates say that it promotes discrimination in the workplace. And agricultural firms are freaking about having to do anything that requires verifying citizenship.
Is anyone happy about this system?
While I can’t say that I’m ecstatic about the extra work, I am still using E-Verify in my new state of Texas. Let’s hope they get this whole identity theft thing figured out soon.