Small Steps, Big Results: E-Verify’s Progress
These days, there are not many examples of bipartisan support for a program. E-Verify, an employment verification system operated through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has support from both sides of the political spectrum.
E-Verify has been through many iterations and seen many improvements – starting from 1997 as the Basic Pilot. Through strategic partnerships for information sharing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2008, the launching of a Spanish version of E-Verify in 2009, and the creation of “Self-Check,” a tool that allows anyone to check their employment status, E-Verify has come a long way from original skepticism about the program. E-Verify regularly updates and improves its systems, and achieved many milestones as it grew from 24,000 registered users in 2007 to 432,000 in early 2013.
E-Verify tackles the same issues that contentious immigration legislation faces in a practical manner. The system is easy to use, free, and allows employers who use the system to be free from prosecution if they were to hire someone that is not a US citizen or ineligible to work in the US.
The system finds that 98.65 percent of all employees screened are authorized to work, and the 1.35 percent that receive initial system mismatches may enter a process to contest their status if they believe it is not accurate. Using E-Verify to screen every new hire may become mandatory for all employers in the near future. Since 2009 most federal contractors have been required to use E-Verify. An early adopter of E-Verify, Arc Aspicio uses the system to screen all new hires.
E-Verify faces several challenges moving forward. Identity fraud poses a risk to the system’s accuracy. There are concerns that some employers misuse the system by prescreening applicants or not notifying employees that receive a “Tentative Nonconfirmation,” or “TNC”, meaning they are not work-authorized. Some companies, often small businesses, are reluctant to use E-Verify because they do not perceive the time and resources that they invest into verifying candidates’ credentials as being a worthwhile investment. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken steps to address these issues, launching the Employee Rights Toolkit, and publicizing the E-Verify program and its successes to more businesses through their Public Education Program.
Immigration reform continues to be controversial. E-Verify is but one small part of a larger, and very complex immigration system. As Congress looks at alternatives, it should consider that this is one part that already seen success, and should look for similar successes across the border protection and immigration lifecycle.