E-Verify, the electronic employment verification system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has been at the center of efforts to improve the employment eligibility verification system and enhance worksite enforcement efforts. On November 1, 2008, current authorization and funding for E-Verify is set to expire. On July 31, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 6633) that would extend E-Verify for five years. The bill has moved to the Senate for consideration where competing bills have also been introduced, including one that would make E-Verify permanent and another that would recapture immigrant visas (green cards) that were authorized but went unused between 1992 and 2007.
Critics of E-Verify express concerns regarding privacy, due process, and the system’s accuracy, and propose scrapping the system entirely until a new, more workable system can be developed. Nonetheless, proponents support the temporary extension of E-Verify, at least while Congress continues efforts to develop a more workable permanent system. Furthermore, various states have passed legislation mandating E-Verify participation for public employers, state government contractors, or even all employers in the state, thus making them reliant on the continuation of E-Verify. The Bush Administration also recently proposed a rule making E-Verify mandatory for an estimated 200,000 federal government contractors.
The reliance on E-Verify by states and the federal government, the lack of a “ready-to-go” alternative, and the unlikelihood of a major battle on Capitol Hill to undo E-Verify during the weeks leading up to the Presidential election all make the extension of the underlying E-Verify program seem inevitable. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, the federal government continues its efforts to increase enforcement via the expansion of E-Verify and worksite raids.
Note: This article was published in the September/October 2008 issue of The Employment Law Authority.