Backgrounder: E-Verify


What E-Verify Is:

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's I-9 form to Homeland Security Department data and Social Security Administration records, to see if the person is eligible to work in the United States. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs the program, more than 225,000 businesses have signed up for E-Verify.

What You Can Do:

Individuals in some states can use the online system to check themselves. The website for Self Check says it helps users who find incorrect information contact DHS or SSA. Other states will be added to the system in the future, the site says.

Error Rate:

During fiscal 2009, the system incorrectly flagged as ineligible .3 percent of employees, according to a GAO report (.pdf). If the system were mandatory for all employers, at that rate it would wrongly flag 180,000 people per year.

Recent Public Reactions:

The New York Times reported July 30 that opposition among farmers to mandatory E-Verify checks has grown. Many farmers quoted in the article feared that they wouldn't be able to recruit enough laborers if immigration law were enforced. Efforts to require E-Verify have led to tension between farmers and conservative lawmakers, groups that tend to otherwise get along politically.

Not long after Georgia passed a law requiring that many employers use E-Verify, restaurants and farmers in the state reported labor shortages, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Farmers have claimed that the law is "scaring away [to other states] the migrant Hispanic workers they depend on to pick their fruits and vegetables, potentially putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops at risk."

The American Farm Bureau opposes E-Verify and stated in July that mandatory use of E-Verify "could have a significant, negative impact on U.S. farm production, threatening the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers in labor intensive agriculture."

AFB's official stance is that it could support a system "coupled with a worker program that sustains the agricultural sectors, improves the current E-Verify to eliminate error rates and protect against identity fraud, and provides employers with a 'safe harbor' for good faith reliance on the system."

Since E-Verify can only be used once someone is hired, some employers complain that they have hired and begun training people that they later discover are ineligible to work after they perform the mandatory database check.

Mandatory Compliance:

Federal government agencies have been required to use E-Verify since Oct. 2007.

Government contractors that have an E-Verify clause in their contract must enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of the award date of the contract. Companies already using E-Verify have three days to verify new hires, while those new to E-Verify get 90 days.

Several states--including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah--require use of E-Verify, though some require only government and contractor hires to be checked.

Current Proposed Legislation In Congress That Would Mandate E-Verify Nationwide:

-S.1196, the "Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act," introduced June 14, 2011 by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.
-H.R.2164, the "Legal Workforce Act," introduced June 14, 2011 by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Referred to to House Judiciary Committee, Education and the Workforce Committee and Ways and Means Committee.
-H.R.800, the "Jobs Recovery by Ensuring a Legal American Workforce Act," introduced Feb. 18, 2011 by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas). Referred to House Judiciary subcommittee.

For more:
- watch a USCIS video on how to enroll in E-Verify

More FierceHomelandSecurity backgrounders:
Backgrounder: The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea
Backgrounder: Secure Communities, ICE's program for deporting criminal immigrants

Related Articles:
IG: SSA failed to use E-Verify for 19 percent of new hires

Report: E-Verify needs a biometric fix

e-Verify self check online

USCIS e-Verify still flags eligible employees, says GAO