WASHINGTON — Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today strengthened employment eligibility verification by announcing the Administration’s support for a regulation that will award federal contracts only to employers who use E-Verify to check employee work authorization.
The declaration came as Secretary Napolitano announced the Department’s intention to rescind the Social Security No-Match Rule, which has never been implemented and has been blocked by court order, in favor of the more modern and effective E-Verify system.
“E-Verify is a smart, simple and effective tool that reflects our continued commitment to working with employers to maintain a legal workforce,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Requiring those who seek federal contracts to use this system will create a more reliable and legal workforce. The rule complements our Department’s continued efforts to strengthen immigration law enforcement and protect critical employment opportunities. As Senator Schumer and others have recognized, we need to continue to work to improve E-Verify, and we will.”
E-Verify, which compares information from the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) against federal government databases to verify workers’ employment eligibility, is a free web-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The system facilitates compliance with federal immigration laws and helps to deter unauthorized individuals from attempting to work and also helps employers avoid employing unauthorized aliens.
The federal contractor rule extends use of the E-Verify system to covered federal contractors and subcontractors, including those who receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. After a careful review, the Administration will push ahead with full implementation of the rule, which will apply to federal solicitations and contract awards Government-wide starting on September 8, 2009.
On average, one thousand employers sign up for E-Verify each week, totaling more than 134,000 employers representing more than half a million locations nationwide. Westat, an independent research firm, found that 96.9 percent of all queries run through E-Verify are automatically confirmed work-authorized within 24 hours. The figure is based on statistics gathered from October through December 2008. Since October 1, 2008, E-Verify has processed more than six million queries. In an April 2009 American Customer Satisfaction Index Survey of over a thousand E-Verify participants, E-Verify scored 83 out of a possible 100 points—well above the latest federal government satisfaction index of 69 percent.
In addition to expanding participation, DHS continues to enhance E-Verify in order to guard against errors, enforce compliance, promote proper usage, and enhance security. Recent E-Verify advancements include new processes to reduce typographical errors and new features to reduce initial mismatches. In May 2008, DHS added access to naturalization database records which increased the program’s ability to automatically verify naturalized citizens’ status, reducing citizenship-related mismatches by 39 percent. Additionally, in February 2009, the agency incorporated Department of State passport data in the E-Verify process to reduce mismatches among foreign-born citizens. Other initiatives underway will bring further improvements to Federal database accuracy; add new tools to prevent fraud, misuse, and discrimination; strengthen training, monitoring, and compliance; and enhance privacy protections.
DHS will be proposing a new regulation rescinding the 2007 No-Match Rule, which was blocked by court order shortly after issuance and has never taken effect. That rule established procedures that employers could follow if they receive SSA No-Match letters or notices from DHS that call into question work eligibility information provided by employees. These notices most often inform an employer many months or even a year later that an employee’s name and Social Security Number provided for a W-2 earnings report do not match SSA records—often due to typographical errors or unreported name changes. E-Verify addresses data inaccuracies that can result in No-Match letters in a more timely manner and provides a more robust tool for identifying unauthorized individuals and combating illegal employment.
As Governor of Arizona, Secretary Napolitano signed legislation mandating all employers in the State use E-Verify. Implementation of this legislation has received high marks from employers across Arizona and the USCIS Ombudsman (in a December 2008 report).