E-Verify Explained

May 9, 2009

The Migration Policy Institute has posted an informative explanation of the controversial E-Verify program and its proposed alternatives.

E-Verify is a U.S. government database that employers can use to verify the employment eligibility of prospective hires. Both the U.S. government and some states are attempting to make use of this database mandatory against the protests of various immigration, business and other advocacy groups.

One of the key problems with this database is its unacceptable error rate, which results in citizens and non-citizens alike receiving non-confirmation notices. A non-confirmation means the prospective employee effectively cannot start work until he clears his name.

The following are highlights of the problems with the database extracted from the Migration Policy Institute’s article on the issue:

Error Rate

“False nonconfirmations, the most serious problem, affect both legally resident workers and employers. Where tentative nonconfirmations are successfully appealed, some workers report having to make multiple trips to SSA field offices or numerous calls to DHS to correct the error.

The persistence of database errors means that protecting workers against false final nonconfirmations requires employers to endure relatively long periods of uncertainty about employees’ status to ensure workers an adequate opportunity to appeal a [nonconfirmation]….

As noted earlier, foreign-born workers, particularly naturalized citizens, have the highest database error rates. Since Westat, GAO, and other independent analysts have found that employers subject native and immigrant workers to different degrees of scrutiny, human error and bias can reinforce the problem. …”

 Identity Theft

 “A second unintended consequence of E-Verify is identity theft, which affected 8.4 million Americans in 2007 at a cost to these victims of $50 billion according to the US Trade Commission.

By linking employment more closely to valid Social Security numbers (SSNs) and associated data (e.g., name and state of birth), E-Verify increases the value of this information, the key to stealing an individual’s identity.”

Excessive Cost to Tax Payer

“Third, although USCIS bears the financial costs of administering E-Verify, SSA manages 90 percent of the system’s queries, and SSA field offices must resolve erroneous nonconfirmations for US citizens.

SSA administrators have testified before Congress that these tasks threaten the agency’s ability to complete its core mission of service to disabled and retired Americans. These administrators have estimated that a mandatory E-Verify program would cost the agency about $281 million for fiscal year (FY) 2009 through FY 2013.

SSA officials and advocates for the agency warn that expanding E-Verify would threaten the agency’s ability to process the impending wave of baby boomer retirees, which is expected to add a million new cases to the agency’s workload each year for the next decade.”