On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on E-Verify and the future of employment eligibility verification. Sen. Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, set the stage with his opening remarks by declaring that improving employment verification is a necessary component of broad immigration reform. Most in attendance agreed that the current system (using the paper I-9 and optional E-Verify) has flaws in that it cannot detect identity fraud, requires overly subjective evaluation by employers, and is ultimately error-prone. As can be imagined, there were differing views on the best way to resolve this dilemma.
Sen Schumer outlined 10 characteristics of his proposed system, which would include the use of non-forgeable biometric identifiers (such as fingerprints, iris scans, etc). Congressman Gutierrez also supported an entirely biometric system, arguing that it would reduce fraud, prevent pre-screening, and empower individuals to correct errors more easily.
James Ziglar, former commissioner for INS, also advocated the use of biometrics (while simultaneously disclosing his equity position in a biometrics company). Mr. Ziglar was not as harsh in his critique of E-Verify, going so far as to suggest that a biometric component could be added-on so that we don’t have to scrap the whole E-Verify system. He recognized though that the cost of a biometric system (either brand new or in E-Verify) would be significant.
Lynden Melmed, former Chief Counsel for USCIS, emphasized the need for a prompt, accurate and reliable system which eliminates subjective decision-making by employers, simplifies the rules, and fairly distributes the costs of such a system so that employers are not overly burdened. Mr. Melmed testified that this could be possible either through an improved E-Verify system (with biometrics) or a similar program that achieves the same end.
Michael Aytes, Acting Deputy Director of the USCIS, was the lone voice with full support for the current E-Verify system. As in past testimony, Mr. Aytes highlighted the growing enrollment in E-Verify, enhancements in accuracy and reliability, and the USCIS commitment to further strengthen the system through outreach programs, increased monitoring and compliance, and mechanisms to safeguard employee privacy. Here are the latest E-Verify Usage stats and figures from Mr. Aytes as of July 18, 2009:
- Over 137,000 employers are enrolled, representing over 517,000 locations
- Employers have run over 6.4 million queries thus far in FY 2009
- 96.9 percent of all cases queried through E-Verify were automatically verified as work authorized (based on data from October through December 2008)
- 3.1 percent of queries resulted in a mismatch, or a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC)
- Of the 3.1 % TNCs, 0.3 percent are related to new hires who were issued a TNC and successfully contested the case. The remaining 2.8 % were found not work-authorized either because the employee was in fact not work-authorized, chose not to contest, did not follow the necessary procedures to successfully contest, or was unaware of the TNC or the opportunity to contest because the employer did not follow proper procedures.