March 9, 2009 | WebMemo on Immigration
On March 11, E-Verify will expire. This program gave employers a method by which to confirm the eligibility of employees to work in the U.S. Letting E-Verify expire was a mistake and a step backward in efforts to enforce America's immigration laws. Later today, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will introduce an amendment to the Senate's version of the omnibus spending bill. This amendment would reauthorize the program for another five years, giving Congress the opportunity to avoid the mistake of letting this program expire. Congress should reauthorize E-Verify and support reforms that strengthen it and similar workplace enforcement programs.
Helping Employers Enforce the Law
E-Verify allows employers to confirm an employee's ability to legally work in the United States. An employer enters information provided by a prospective employee (from the I-9 form) into an online portal. The system then compares that data to information in Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. It then issues either a confirmation or a non-confirmation. Non-confirmations can be resolved if an employee can later prove that there was a discrepancy in the system. If it is not resolved, a final non-confirmation is issued and the employer is not allowed to hire the worker.
E-Verify has been a success. More than 80,000 employers participate in E-Verify, and the system has confirmed the identity of over 5.3 million workers. The program has been a success because it helps employers enforce immigration laws in a cheap and user-friendly fashion. For example, the software is free and requires very basic information-information already found on the I-9. Knowing beforehand that an employee can legally work also minimizes the cost of having to hire new employees later. And with an error rate of fewer than 4 percent, employers can comfortably rely on the program.
More Time for E-Verify
Given the benefits of E-Verify, it is vital that the program continues. Although the program will expire this week, Congress can still reauthorize E-Verify. Furthermore, Congress should strengthen E-Verify and similar workplace enforcement programs by doing the following:
E-Verify helps responsible employers hire legal workers in an economically viable manner. It and other similar programs are the type of business-friendly and cost-effective programs that Congress should be supporting. Consequently, Congress should reauthorize and fully fund E-Verify.
Jena Baker McNeill is a homeland security policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.