E-Verify failing to catch half of illegal workers

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) E-Verify program may not be detecting 50 percent of illegal workers whose employment authorizations are screened, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Internet-based E-Verify program checks information provided by new hires against Social Security Administration and DHS databases to verify the individuals are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent U.S. residents. Tens of thousands of companies participate in the E-Verify program voluntarily or as a requirement of doing business with the government.

Research group Westat, Rockville, Md., evaluated the program and found E-Verify couldn’t confirm whether information workers presented was their own; consequently, it concluded many unauthorized workers are hired by committing identity fraud that is undetected by E-Verify.

Overall, the evaluation showed E-Verify accurately screened 96 percent of workers, correctly identifying 93.1 percent of cases as people allowed to work in the U.S. and 2.9 percent as unauthorized; 3.3 percent of cases were illegal workers mistaken for legal workers.

DHS's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is working on improving the program, including adding more databases and a photo screening tool, as well as establishing a monitoring and compliance branch to detect identity fraud.

"The Westat report shows that E-Verify's accuracy continues to improve, with the vast majority of all cases automatically found to be work-authorized," says CIS spokesman Bill Wright.

All federal contractors must enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of being awarded a government contract. At least 10 states use the program to verify state workers, and some states require all employers to use E-Verify.

Congressional Republicans are urging expansion of the E-Verify program and want to include it in federal jobs-creation proposals.

Date : 3/8/2010