E-Verify extended to March 2009

Congress' decision on whether to reauthorize the Homeland Security Department’s controversial E-Verify employment verification program has been pushed to March 2009. Meanwhile, the program will get $100 million in new funding under the continuing resolution funding legislation signed by President Bush Sept. 30.

E-Verify, formerly known as Basic Pilot, has been operating for more than a decade. About 80,000 employers use it, mostly on a voluntary basis. However, Bush signed an executive order June 6 that requires federal contractors and subcontractors to participate in E-Verify.

The program has been controversial because of the alleged high error rates in the federal databases used to verify eligibility. The Social Security Administration cannot immediately verify about 7 percent of the queries, and Citizenship and Immigration Services cannot quickly confirm about 1 percent of applicants as authorized to work in this country, according to a report issued June 10 by the Government Accountability Office.

E-Verify’s authorization was set to expire Nov. 29. Although the House approved a five-year reauthorization, the legislation did not go to a vote in the Senate. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) put a hold on a bill to continue E-Verify and requested that the Senate attach a provision to distribute additional employment visas to foreign workers.

Under the continuing resolution, E-Verify will operate through March 6, 2009. The new funding is part of the homeland security appropriation for fiscal 2009 that was folded into the legislation.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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