While ‘the wall’ on the Mexican border grabs headlines, attention needs to be paid to Homeland Security’s E-Verify program. Part of preventing illegal immigration involves making it harder for this population to get a job. E-Verify has been around for over ten years, is robust, and works fast. Why don’t all employers use it?
One reason is employers that receive federal grants (as opposed to contracts) don’t have to participate in E-Verify. (Heads up, Homeland Security Secretary Kelly!)
The Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor are major grant-making machines. Homeland Security and the Justice Department are too. The loophole exempting grantees from E-Verify needs to be corrected fast.
Secondly, state and local governments can choose to use E-Verify as part of their normal hiring practices, or they can opt out. That’s a lot of employees, especially when one considers the size of many state universities. For example, the University of Iowa does not participate in E-Verify, unless its employee is engaged in federal contract work.
Third, some employers view the system as too complicated.
Ten years ago that might have been a good excuse, but not today.
I’ve shopped at New York City fashion studio sales, where the salesperson takes my credit card, swipes it on a wee gizmo attached to her tablet, and voilà, the sale is complete. If a retail sale can be done with a tablet and a gizmo, what’s so hard about the electronic E-Verify system?
Here’s how E-Verify works: let’s assume a firm has a Human Resources person. As part of the paperwork in hiring a new employee, the HR staffer has the employee fill out a form, called an I-9 (employment eligibility verification). Typically, the staffer will ask for a photo ID too.
Based on the I-9 information, the HR staffer creates an online E-Verify case file, and enters the employee’s Social Security number and other information. The information immediately goes to the Social Security Administration and Homeland Security. Within three to five seconds, there’s a check against the records. The government charges no fee for the records check, however, some firms purchase software for case file management.
According to Homeland Security, over 98 percent of checks are positive, meaning the person is eligible for employment.
If the check turns up negative (DHS calls it a ‘mismatch’) it could be due to mistakes in the data entry. If the employee challenges the mismatch, the HR staffer and the employee work to correct the mistake. Meanwhile the employee remains on the firm’s payroll.
An odd note from the DHS website: it states that if there’s a mismatch and the employee does not contest the mismatch, the employee is legally authorized to work.
Finally, about one percent of all employees checked by E-Verify are not authorized to work in the United States. One percent seems small, but it means E-Verify is working as a preventative measure to thwart the hiring of people who are not authorized to work here.
What can President Trump and Secretary Kelly do to expand the use of E-Verify? Bringing federal grantees into the program should be a top priority. The President and the Secretary can lean on state governors and legislators to have all of their state hiring offices (including universities) participate in E-Verify.
And why not use the Executive bully pulpit to praise firms and states that participate? How about an E-Verify employer-of-the-month recognition? Plus an employer-of-the-year award including a meeting with the President?
This is one immigration solution that’s already in place, but could use a few good cheerleaders. Mr. President, Mr. Secretary – get your pom-poms ready for action!