Business groups want Congress to address E-Verify concerns

This article was updated at 7:15 p.m., Aug. 11, 2009, to explain that the letter given to reporters was a draft and clarify the groups’ position on E-Verify requirements for contractors.

Trade associations that include TechAmerica and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say Congress should deal with worries they have about the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system.

The language of provisions in the Senate bill to fund the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2010 doesn’t address concerns that employers have about the E-Verify system, the associations said in a draft of a letter dated today and given to reporters.

The Senate version of the bill would require all federal contractors to enroll in E-Verify and require the system be used to re-verify current workers. The House version of the bill does not have that provision. The groups plan to send a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

The organizations said:

  • Mandatory verification should be limited only to newly hired employees.
  • Contractors should be protected against having to assume excess liability for their subcontractors.
  • Exceptions should be made for contracts that don’t meet a certain threshold for expense and length of performance.
  • States and localities shouldn’t be allowed to put in place different requirements on federal contractors that use E-Verify.

Jennifer Kerber, TechAmerica’s vice president for federal and homeland security policy, said her organization supports an online, workable employment verification system. However, Kerber said, “We have concerns with the scalability of the system. We have concerns that right now I can bring you someone else’s document and be employed whether that’s me or not.”

Kerber said her organization was also concerned about the level of liability that contractors face with the system.

Critics of E-Verify say errors in government databases can cause an unacceptable rate of incorrect results.

According to the latest statistics from DHS, 96.9 percent of cases queried through the system automatically authorized employees for work, and 3.1 percent showed a mismatch or a tentative non-confirmation. Then 0.3 percent of the total number of candidates had successfully contested an adverse initial decision about their eligibility, while the other 2.8 percent remained ineligible.

DHS runs the Web-based system in partnership with the Social Security Administration. About 134,000 employers use E-Verify, and 12 states mandate its use for state workers, contractors or both.

The Obama administration has said it will require companies use the system on contracts won after Sept. 8 to verify employees hired during the contract term and to confirm the eligibility of current employees who do contract work for the federal government in the United States. However, there are exemptions for existing contractor employees not working on federal contracts, and contracts under a certain dollar threshold under the rule.

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