EVP's success boosts Clinton's record

The Immigration and Naturalization Service's year-old Employment Verification Pilot (EVP) has successfully thwarted thousands of illegal immigrants from taking jobs at American companies that have volunteered to test the new system INS officials said.

The success of the program which the INS will outline in a report later this year gives the agency a platform from which to propose expanding the program and helps give the Clinton administration a strong record this election year on the hotly debated issue of illegal immigration.

Under EVP which went on-line in September 1995 participating companies submit via a PC and modem the alien registration numbers of new employees who indicated on the companies' employee application forms that they were not U.S. citizens. The PC and INS-supplied software gives the employers access to the INS' database of alien registration numbers which the agency issues to immigrants who can work and live legally in the United States.

As of Sept. 9 the nearly 600 work sites participating in EVP had submitted 23 862 numbers of which 80 percent were verified by the INS 14 percent or 3 358 numbers could not be verified. The INS is still trying to verify the remaining 1 580 queries.

INS officials point out that the 3 358 alien registration numbers that could not be verified are not necessarily fraudulent.

Immigrants whose numbers are rejected have 30 days to contact an INS office to correct the mistake if they believe an error was made.

However only 82 of the 3 358 people rejected by EVP visited an INS office to complain. Of those 66 had their number eventually validated and 16 were rejected.

"We feel the system has worked very well " said John Nahan director of Systematic Alien Verification Entitlements (SAVE) at INS. "The percentage of numbers not validated by the system is pretty much close to what we expected."

But some immigration experts believe EVP has flaws. "One problem is that [immigrants] must acknowledge they are not a U.S. citizen on their application " said Stephen Rockwell a research assistant specializing in immigration issues at the Brookings Institution Washington D.C. That means immigrants who falsely indicate they are U.S. citizens are not verified by EVP.

Nevertheless Rockwell said the INS' estimate of thousands of illegal immigrants turned away from American jobs gives the Clinton campaign "something concrete to point to and say we are doing something about" illegal immigration.

INS officials have acknowledged that EVP is not foolproof. But Nahan points out that the system is meant as a deterrent to illegal immigration not a means to catch illegal immigrants.

INS commissioner Doris Meissner said in May that to remove the chance of illegal immigrants using fraudulent records Social Security numbers also must be verified.

The INS and the Social Security Administration plan to test such a system called the Joint Employment Verification Pilot this year in Chicago.

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