Contractors must use E-Verify system

Rule will become effective in two months

The Obama administration will begin enforcing the mandatory E-Verify employment verification rule for federal contractors September 8, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today.

“E-Verify is a smart, simple and effective tool that reflects our continued commitment to working with employers to maintain a legal workforce,” Napolitano said. “Requiring those who seek federal contracts to use this system will create a more reliable and legal workforce. The rule complements our [Homeland Security] Department’s continued efforts to strengthen immigration law enforcement and protect critical employment opportunities.”

“After a careful review, the administration will push ahead with full implementation of the rule, which will apply to federal solicitations and contract awards governmentwide starting on Sept. 8, 2009,” Napolitano said.

E-Verify is a Web-based system run by the DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). About 134,000 employers use the system, and 12 states have made E-Verify use a requirement for state workers, state contractors or both.

Employers use E-Verify by entering the Social Security Numbers of prospective new hires and existing employees. If there is a match, the employee is eligible for work. If not, the employee is advised to contact SSA to determine the source of the problem. DHS acknowledges a 3.9 percent rate of nonmatches in the system; however, critics contend the error rate is higher because the system is not designed to catch stolen or borrowed Social Security Numbers.

Implementing the mandatory E-Verify system has been postponed four times, first in January. White House officials said they needed more time to review a pending lawsuit brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that challenged the constitutionality of mandatory E-Verify use by federal contractors, which had started as an executive order by President George W. Bush.

Under Bush’s executive order, about 168,000 federal contractors were to begin mandatory use of E-Verify starting this January. The order applies to federal contracts valued at more than $100,000 and subcontracts worth more than $3,000.

The lawsuit challenging the rule is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Co-plaintiffs with the chamber are the Society for Human Resource Management, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the HR Policy Association, and the American Council on International Personnel. Chamber officials were not immediately available for comment today.

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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