On Wednesday, February 27, 2013, the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing entitled “How E-Verify Works and How it Benefits American Employers and Workers” in Washington, D.C. Members at the hearing discussed whether use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system should be required by all U.S. employers to check the legal work status of newly hired employees as part of proposed legislation to reform the nation’s immigration system. To watch a video webcast of the meeting, visit http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/113th/hear_02272013.html.
According to a press release about the meeting, E-Verify was created in 1996 and is currently operated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). E-Verify is an Internet-based employment eligibility verification system run by the government that checks the legal work status of newly hired employees by comparing the social security numbers (SSNs) on “Form I-9s” against records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). More than 430,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and the program confirms 99.5% of work-eligible employees. The press release is available at http://judiciary.house.gov/news/2013/02262013.html.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) released the following statements in advance of the hearing.
- Chairman Goodlatte: “Although the infamous 1986 immigration overhaul promised sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants, those sanctions were never seriously enforced. The American people and Members of Congress have a lot of questions about how we are going to avoid the failures of the past in the future. It’s vital that any immigration reform bill contain a quick and easy way for employers to check the legal status of their newly hired employees. E-Verify is an easy and effective tool for American employers to use and it should be expanded.”
- Subcommittee Chairman Gowdy: “Inasmuch as the 1986 immigration ‘reform’ effort failed to provide the ability or incentive to verify the status of potential employees, a functioning employment verification system is a condition precedent for future reform efforts.”
Witnesses for the hearing included: Ms. Soraya Correa, Associate Director, Enterprises Services Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Mr. Chris Gamvroulas, President, Ivory Homes; Mr. Randel K. Johnson, Senior Vice President for Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Ms. Emily Tulli; Policy Attorney, National Immigration Law Center. Written testimony of USCIS Enterprise Services Directorate Associate Director Correa included the following:
- Continued Program Growth: The number of employers registered to use the E-Verify Program has grown rapidly to more than 432,000 as of February 2013 compared to only 24,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2007, with the number of new employer registrations averaging between 1-2,000 per week in FY 2012. More than 50,000 federal contractors are enrolled in E-Verify. We have seen a steady increase in the volume of queries. Last fiscal year, E-Verify processed 21.1 million queries, a more than five-fold increase from the 4.0 million queries processed in FY 2007. In FY 2012, almost 92 percent of those queries were on U.S. citizen workers. In FY 2013 to date, employers have run over 7.1 million queries.
- Customer Satisfaction Increases as the Program Grows: E-Verify continues to score high marks in employer customer satisfaction. E-Verify was given a customer satisfaction score of 86 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey performed in 2012. This is a one point improvement over the prior year score of 85, and our score has remained exceptionally high compared to the average score for a government program, which is 67. ACSI surveyed E-Verify users and evaluated key aspects of the program such as registration, the online tutorial, ease of use, technical assistance and customer service. Key findings of the survey revealed that the vast majority of users were likely to recommend E-Verify to other employers (score of 86), were confident in E-Verify’s accuracy (score of 87), and were likely to continue using the program (score of 94).
- Improvements in Accuracy for Authorized Employees: A common misperception of E-Verify’s accuracy rate is that the underlying government data is wrong whenever a mismatch—or tentative nonconfirmation (TNC)—is returned. However, a TNC only indicates that there is a discrepancy between the information provided to E-Verify and the information in one of the checked databases. This discrepancy can occur for several reasons: 1) an employee did not to update his or her information with the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or made an error when completing the Form I-9; 2) the employer made an error when entering information into E-Verify; 3) there was a data error in the employee’s government record; or 4) an unauthorized worker provided fraudulent information. In the latter situation, the TNC is not based on error but from E-Verify doing exactly what it is designed to do: detect and prevent unauthorized employment in the United States. In all cases, E-Verify provides the employee with the option to contest the TNC and instructs employers to continue the employee’s employment while he or she works to resolve the issue as appropriate.
- Increasing E-Verify Accuracy and Efficiency: USCIS continues to improve E-Verify’s accuracy by increasing the number of databases checked by the system and making enhancements to reduce the likelihood of employer typos and other data entry errors. The addition of naturalization and U.S. passport data has reduced mismatches for naturalized and derivative citizens by 30 percent on average. In October 2012, access to DHS’s Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS) database was added to E-Verify, which helps to improve match rates for recent arrivals. As a result of these efforts, a review of FY 2012 data found that approximately 98.7 percent of all employees were confirmed as work authorized either automatically, or within 24 hours. The remaining 1.3 percent contained a mix of TNCs based on errors (whether employer, employee or government error) and TNCs where the person was not authorized to work in the United States.
- Strengthening E-Verify and Combating Identity Fraud: In November 2010, USCIS expanded E-Verify’s photographic matching tool to include U.S. passports and U.S. passport cards. The addition of U.S. passport photos allows the employer to match the photo displayed in E-Verify to the photo on the employee’s U.S. passport or U.S. passport card to determine whether the card was fraudulently produced. In FY 2012, approximately 15 percent of all E-Verify cases used the photo tool. E-Verify users rate the photo tool very highly as a method for reducing fraud. The 2012 ACSI rating of E-Verify found that the photo tool scored 95 points on a scale of 1 to 100. Employers found the photo tool to be easy to use (score of 95) and thought it was helpful in preventing fraud (score of 94). The photo tool was the highest rated feature of E-Verify in the ACSI survey. Since our last testimony in February 2011, we further strengthened E-Verify’s anti-fraud capabilities by launching a pilot program in June 2011 that allows E-Verify to match the information on a driver’s license presented by an employee with a participating states’ Departments of Motor Vehicles database. USCIS is piloting this effort with the states of Mississippi and Florida.
- USCIS Continues to Improve Monitoring of E-Verify for Misuse: E-Verify’s Monitoring and Compliance Branch (M&C) continues to increase monitoring of E-Verify to identify potential instances of repeated and egregious misuse by employers. M&C uses and is updating and expanding behavioral algorithms to detect patterns of potential program misuse in E-Verify transactional data. M&C also uses different compliance assistance tools to assist employers with the proper use of E-Verify, such as emails, telephone calls, desk reviews, and site visits. In FY 2012, M&C issued more than 65,000 compliance assistance actions (telephone calls, letters, and emails) and completed 35 compliance site visits to provide compliance assistance to employers and gain a better understanding of their use of the E-Verify program.
- Protecting Employee’s Rights: USCIS works closely with the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (DOJ/OSC) to educate employers, prevent discrimination, and refer possible misuse that adversely affects employees. We provide E Verify data to DOJ/ OSC in response to law enforcement requests. DOJ/OSC also refers to USCIS those instances of employer E-Verify misuse brought to DOJ/OSC’s attention through charges filed with DOJ or through DOJ’s hotline that fall outside of DOJ/OSC’s jurisdiction. USCIS also has co-produced with DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) two videos in English and Spanish on employee rights and employer responsibilities that are posted to the USCIS YouTube web page, and the USCIS and CRCL websites, and regularly conducts joint webinars with USCIS/OSC on these subjects. Employees also can report complaints about E-Verify system misuse by calling the E-Verify Hotline and/or the DOJ/OSC Hotline.
- E-Verify Self Check: To further protect employee rights, in March 2011 USCIS launched Self Check, a service of E Verify, in five states and Washington, D.C. Self Check is an innovative service that empowers individuals to check online whether government databases used by E-Verify correctly match the information they enter into the systems and to proactively resolve records mismatches before formally seeking employment. Since 2011, we have expanded Self Check nationwide (including to U.S. territories) in both English and Spanish. Over 180,000 individuals nationwide have availed themselves of the Self Check service. The number of individuals using Self Check continues to grow due to outreach materials on Self Check available online in the Employee Rights Toolkit. Self-Check also uses identity assurance techniques to prevent an individual from checking the work authorization of another person and to prevent unfettered access to E-Verify from other entities, such as employers who would use Self Check to prescreen for other purposes.
- Increasing the Use of E-Verify: USCIS has developed a robust outreach program to increase public awareness of E-Verify’s significant benefits. USCIS informed millions of people about E-Verify in FY 2012 through radio, print, and online ads in English and Spanish, and thousands more through 186 public events, 355 live webinars, and distribution of informational materials. In FY 2012, USCIS handled more than 217,000 calls from E Verify employers through its toll-free customer line and more than 116,000 calls from employees through its employee hotline. E-Verify users can get the latest information on E-Verify from the E-Verify Connection newsletter. The newsletter has an estimated 1 million readers. Other public education accomplishments include the release of E-Verify User Guides for both the employee and the employer, in English and Spanish, and an updated and redesigned E-Verify Questions and Answers web site. A new Employee Rights Toolkit is available online, also in English and Spanish, with multimedia materials to help assist employees with the employment-eligibility verification process and other important topics. To help the public learn about the employers enrolled in E-Verify, USCIS updated the E-Verify website in FY 2012 by adding a brand new online search tool. The E-Verify Employer Search Tool gives the public the ability to search and view E-Verify employers. Individuals can now search, filter, sort, and view employer information by name, state, city, zip code, and workforce size.
Written testimony of USCIS Enterprise Services Directorate Associate Director Soraya Correa for a House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security hearing titled “How E-Verify Works and How it Benefits American Employers and Workers” is available at http://www.dhs.gov/news/2013/02/27/written-testimony-us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-house-judiciary.
While participation in E-Verify is still voluntary for many businesses in the United States, employers with federal contracts or subcontracts must use the system. E-Verify usage is also required by law in several U.S. states, and the list continues to grow. A Designated E-Verify Employer Agent such as Employment Screening Resources (ESR) may help employers comply with E-Verify/Form I-9 regulations. For more information, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/formi9.php. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ – is a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). For more information about ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/, call Toll Free 888.999.4474, or email [email protected].
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more about ESR, visit http://www.esrcheck.com or call toll free 888.999.4474.
About ESR News:
The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at [email protected]. To subscribe to the ESR News Blog Feed, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/feed/. To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/Newsletter/.