Report: E-Verify causes concerns in Arizona

Arizona employers using the federal E-Verify system to check work eligibility for their employees are worried about how often the system initially rejects legitimate employees, according to a report by the Homeland Security Department.

“The concern most frequently identified by Arizona employers with E-Verify is that Tentative Non-Confirmations are sometimes issued on work-authorized individuals,” the report dated Dec. 22 said.

The false rejections affect about 4,000 people for every 1,000,000 people tested by the E-Verify system, a rate of approximately 0.4 percent, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), the report said.

About 96,000 employers nationwide are voluntarily using E-Verify. Arizona is one of several states that have mandated use of E-Verify on a broad scale.

Under the Internet-based program, jointly run by DHS and the Social Security Administration, employers collect and submit Social Security numbers for new hires and existing employees. If the names and numbers match those in the federal databases, the worker is eligible to work. If there is no match, or multiple matches, the employee is tagged as a Tentative Non-Confirmation, and further assessment is needed that may lead to a final determination of work eligibility or non-eligibility.

Under President Bush’s executive order, use of E-Verify is to be made mandatory for approximately 168,000 federal contractors beginning Jan. 15. The E-Verify regulation pertains to federal contracts of more than $100,000 and subcontracts of more than $3,000. A coalition of business groups is suing to keep E-Verify from being imposed on contractors.

The CIS ombudsman interviewed a number of employers in Arizona to get insight into how well the program is working. It became mandatory in that state for most private and public employees in January 2008.

“The ombudsman determined from this study that mid-sized and large employers appear relatively satisfied with the speed and accuracy of E-Verify," the report said. "Smaller employers, however, expressed varying levels of concern with user-friendliness. Also, confusion remains about the exact timing, and the specific processes, that must be followed by employers and employees after E-Verify returns a Tentative Non-Confirmation determination."

The ombudsman recommended increased outreach and education efforts to smaller employers.

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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