Business groups are upset over the arrests this week of nearly 600 immigrant workers at a Howard Industries electrical transformer plant in Laurel, Mississippi, because government agents raided the plant even though the company last year joined the E-Verify program. Some companies believe that participation in the voluntary electronic employment eligibility verification program makes them immune to such raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
A careful reading of E-Verify literature on the USCIS website shows, however, that while the assumption of being less likely to be exposed to immigration raids may be true, participation in the E-Verify program does not by itself mean that a company is completely protected from being raided or audited.
One of the flaws of E-Verify is that it cannot show whether a Social Security number submitted electronically to government databases actually belongs to the employee whose work authorization is being verified. There is always a risk that ICE will conduct raids based on suspicions of widespread identity theft and fraud.
USCIS describes E-Verify as “an Internet-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is currently free to employers and is available in all 50 states. E-Verify provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.”
As we pointed out, the Social Security number being E-Verified my be valid, but the system cannot check whether it belongs to the person who is using it, if that person has assumed someone else’s identity. A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report pointed out that “E-Verify may help employers detect fraudulent documents thereby reducing such fraud, but it cannot yet fully address identity fraud issues, for example when employees present genuine documents that may be stolen.” Link to GAO Report.
This is what USCIS website actually says about the question of possible enforcement raids:
“Q : Does participation in E-Verify provide safe harbor from worksite enforcement?
An employer who verifies work authorization under E-Verify has established a rebuttable presumption that it has not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien. Participation in the program does not provide a ‘safe harbor’ from worksite enforcement, however.”
If company employees are arrested and charged with identity fraud, a company using E-Verify may be better able to offer a credible ‘good faith’ defense that it did everything possible to avoid violations of employment and immigration laws. Companies should not assume, however, that E-Verify will completely protect them from all liability.
Using the right Form I-9 and E-Verify software may be helpful in catching some of the common errors made in processing new hires and can improve overall compliance, but it also does not offer a fool-proof protection against identity fraud.
Electronic Form I-9 management system from Tracker I-9™ is now integrated with E-Verify and allows employers to instantly and securely submit E-Verify information to government databases over the Internet. Tracker I-9™ is also offering employers a free E-Verify and Form I-9 HR Toolkit, which can be requested by going to the Tracker I-9™ website.
Posted by Tracker I-9™ team.
Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Information provided through this website should never replace the need for involving informed counsel on your employment and immigration issues.