Napolitano backs E-Verify

DHS secretary says online worker eligibility program is an important tool for employers

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she is a big supporter of E-Verify, the Web-based system employers can use to check that newly hired employees are legally eligible to work.

The system lets employers compare information provided by new employees against records in the Social Security Administration’s database and the Homeland Security Department’s immigration databases. DHS runs the program in partnership with SSA.

During a speech at the Aspen Institute in Washington on June 3, Napolitano said the system is a way for employers to make sure they haven’t hired unauthorized workers in violation of immigration laws.

“We'll be asking the Congress as part of our ongoing efforts in the immigration field to reauthorize E-Verify to put more money into E-Verify as part of our budget, by the way,” she said. “Because I think that if we're going to crack down on employers, we also on the safe side ought to have mechanisms to make it easier for them to comply with the law.”

Critics of E-Verify say errors in government databases can cause an unacceptable rate of incorrect results. In general, the system is voluntary and free for employers, but a controversial executive order by former President George W. Bush would have required about 168,000 federal contractors to begin using E-Verify in January.

The Obama administration has delayed that requirement four times, and the date for implementing it is now set for Sept. 8. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement, and the case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

In prepared remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, Napolitano said E-Verify’s accuracy was continually improving, and more than 122,000 employers use the system.

She defended the system's accuracy by explaining its statistics this way: The most recent surveys found that 96.1 percent of cases queried through the system automatically authorized the employees for work, and 3.9 percent showed a mismatch or a tentative non-confirmation. Also, only 0.4 percent of the total number of candidates had successfully contested an adverse initial decision about their eligibility, while the other 3.5 percent remained ineligible.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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