September 17, 2008
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Unless Congress steps in, on November 30, E-Verify is set to
expire. E-Verify is a system that allows employers to verify
electronically whether their newly hired employees are legally
authorized to work in the United States. E-Verify should be
A Valuable Voluntary Program
Through E-Verify, participating employers can check the work
eligibility status of new personnel they are hiring through an
online service that compares information from an employee's I-9
form against Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) databases. This service is provided free to
employers (though the individual companies must bear the cost of
providing the infrastructure and people to enter the data). So far
this year, E-Verify has processed over 4 million eligibility
checks. The system has proven to be quite effective, and SSA and
DHS continue to work to improve service, reliability, and privacy
An estimated 82,000 employers have enrolled in the program, and
some states, such as Arizona, have passed laws requiring all
employers to use E-Verify. Additionally, in June 2008 the President
signed an executive order that directs all federal departments and
agencies to require contractors (as a condition for obtaining
future federal contracts) to agree to use an electronic workers'
employment eligibility verification system. DHS designated E-Verify
as the system of choice. According to DHS, the number of employers
signing up to use the system is growing by about 1,000 companies
In addition, DHS has established a new partner program called
IMAGE, which builds on E-Verify. Companies registered in E-Verify
are eligible to participate. IMAGE includes audits, internal
training (on issues such as document fraud), and establishing
protocols for responding to "no-match" letters from SSA. In return,
they receive recognition from DHS as a company employing best
practices in workplace verification. Industries that historically
have a high percentage of unlawfully present persons (e.g.,
non-U.S. citizens who do not hold a legitimate work visa) in their
workforce will find this program particularly helpful in complying
with workplace and immigration laws. DHS already has 37 major
private partners participating in the program. Without E-Verify,
DHS will have to discontinue this valuable initiative as well.
Over the years, the program has gained wide support. This past
July, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the
Employee Verification Amendment Act of 2008 (H.R. 6633), which
simply re-authorized E-Verify for an additional five years. The
vote was 407-2. Since then, the bill has sat idly in the Senate
The Senate has not voted on the Employee Verification Amendment
Act of 2008 because of an addition in the Senate measure introduced
by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The Menendez bill proposes
unrelated reforms that would allow government to rollover unused
work visa allocations into the next year so that employers do not
lose the opportunity to hire the foreign workers they need.
America's visa system may need reform. There is, however, no
consensus in the Congress of what those reforms should look like.
Congress should debate visa reforms as a separate issue.
Keeping Things Simple
If Congress does not reauthorize E-Verify by November, the
program will expire and will no longer be available to employers.
There is no reason why re-authorization of E-Verify should be held
up. The program, while not perfect, is a useful tool in helping
combat unlawful employment. Congress should re-authorize
James Jay Carafano,
Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research
Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas
and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage
If Congress does not reauthorize E-Verify by November, the programwill expire and will no longer be available to employers. There isno reason why re-authorization of E-Verify should be held up. Theprogram, while not perfect, is a useful tool in helping combatunlawful employment. Congress should re-authorize E-Verify.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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