September 22, 2009 | WebMemo on Homeland Security
On September 8, the rule requiring E-Verify for federal contractors went into effect. A positive step forward for workplace enforcement, this rule shows that the federal government is dedicated to enforcing its own immigration laws. However, E-Verify's pending expiration--September 30--threatens this new rule. Consequently, Congress should reauthorize the E-Verify program.
Uncertainty over the future of E-Verify will only lead to confusion as the private sector attempts to understand its obligations under this new rule. Congress should clarify this matter by permanently authorizing the program and refining it in a way that encourages employer participation and improves accuracy. Additionally, it should support other effective workplace immigration enforcement tools such as Social Security No-Match.
E-Verify helps employers confirm that their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States by verifying their employment information through a web-based portal. The system compares this 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 is a tremendous success: Over 134,000 employers voluntarily use the program. Recognizing this success and the need for workplace enforcement across the federal government, the Bush Administration proposed a rule that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify. The rule was amended in November 2008 to require verification of both new hires and current employees working on federal contracts.
The rule was met with legal challenges and subsequently delayed into the Obama Administration, which then proceeded to postpone implementation four more times. Despite these delays, on September 8, the rule went into effect.
The Right Example
The federal contactor rule is important because it shows that the federal government is committed to following its own laws and that the private sector must eliminate its addiction to illegal labor. This restriction on illegal labor should equally apply when the federal government contracts work to other entities. E-Verify is the ideal system for the federal contractor rule because:
Time for Commitment
If Congress does not act to reauthorize E-Verify by September 30, the program will expire and this progress will be in vain. The lack of authorization sends a confusing message to the private sector regarding its obligations under the rule. Congress needs to send a clear message that E-Verify is here to stay. Congress should:
Time for Assurances
The federal government and its contractors must demonstrate a commitment to the laws they are tasked to enforce. Such a commitment is vital to the preservation of immigration laws in the United States. However, without a firm pledge by Congress, the private sector will remain hesitant and cautious. It is time for Congress to reassure employers by renewing E-Verify.
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.