Wednesday, July 14, 2010

E-Verify law

The Utah Legislature passed a law this year requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm the eligibility of new employees to work in the United States legally. But because the law does not include any penalties, businesses have been slow to use it, essentially ignoring the law. However, before Utah imposes penalties, the Legislature should look much more deeply into this system.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It compares information that an employee provides on a Form I-9 ( Employment Eligibility Verification) to records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. It confirms whether the information provided by the employee, such as name, date of birth and Social Security number, matches government data.

In most cases, E-Verify will instantly confirm the employee’s work authorization, according to USCIS. Sometimes, however, a manual search is required. If the employee information does not match government records, the employer must make sure he has not made a mistake in entering the information, and he must inform the employee of how to contact the agency to clear up or appeal the result.

At the time the bill was being debated, we argued that it made little sense to require employers to use a system whose accuracy was questionable. According to one study, E-Verify fails to identify illegal status about 54 percent of the time. But reliable statistics about the system’s accuracy are hard to find. Some reports suggest that E-Verify correctly identifies people who are eligible to work about 96 percent of the time. The 3.5 percent who fail happens to roughly correspond with the 5 percent of the work force that some studies estimate are in the country illegally. Identity theft also skews any statistics on reliability. In fact, E-Verify may actually encourage identity theft, since a person who presents himself for employment as someone else with valid government data would not be caught by the system.

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