October 8, 2008 | WebMemo on Department of Homeland Security
On September 27, Congress voted to fund E-Verify through March 2009. This is certainly a positive step for the program, but it has put the ball in the next Congress's court to reauthorize and fund E-Verify into the future. It is also an opportunity to expand and improve on the program in conjunction with the new Administration.
Helping Employers Comply with the Law
E-Verify allows employers to confirm the ability of a worker to legally work in the United States. An employer enters information provided by prospective employees (from the I-9 form) into an online portal. The system then compares that data to Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. It will issue either a confirmation or a non-confirmation, which could later be approved upon clearing up any discrepancies. If not resolved, a final non-confirmation is issued and the employer is not allowed hire the worker. The error rate for E-Verify is under 4 percent of all queries, and DHS has established a quick, user-friendly readdress process for verification errors.
E-Verify is an effective tool for ensuring that employers are legally eligible to work. It not only benefits the government by diminishing enforcement demands on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but it is also a boon to employers because they know beforehand whether an employee can legally work-minimizing tremendous financial losses if workers are later caught in an ICE raid or other enforcement measure.
While the program is currently free and voluntary, more than 80,000 employers participate in E-Verify, and the number keeps growing. E-Verify has verified the identity of over 5.3 million workers. Some states have even made E-Verify mandatory. For example, Arizona enacted the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007, which, among other provisions, effectively required Arizona employers to use E-Verify. Even in the face of opposition, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-the most liberal appellate court in America-upheld the right of the states to institute such legislation. This case may be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but it is certainly a positive step toward broader E-Verify implementation.
The Way Forward
While the current Congress may have punted the issue of E-Verify to the next Congress, this delay is an opportunity for both the next Congress and the new Administration to expand and improve upon E-Verify:
A Great Opportunity
The new Congress and Administration should welcome the opportunity to expand and improve upon E-Verify. E-Verify assists employers economically and furthers national security goals. It is the type of common sense legislation that Washington should embrace.
Jena Baker McNeill is Policy Analyst for Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Matt A. Mayer is a Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, President and Chief Executive Officer of Provisum Strategies LLC and an Adjunct Professor at Ohio State University. He has served as Counselor to the Deputy Secretary and Acting Executive Director for the Office of Grants and Training in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.