Criticisms of E-Verify
E-Verify is an online, fully electronic method for verifying the eligibility of a potential employee to work in the U.S. It is used by U.S. employers and administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It holds a database of immigrants and their legality and cross checks information such as name, birth date, and social security number with a Social Security Administration database. E-Verify was implemented as a viable solution to minimize the incentive for illegal immigrants to enter the U.S. as theoretically, they would not be able to get a job. E-Verify is not mandatory nationwide but many lawmakers are pushing for a national mandate. Currently, E-Verify use is mandatory for all federal employers with a contract of over $3,000. On the state level, Arizona, Utah, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Rhode Island require all employers, public and private, to use E-Verify and numerous states require it for state employers. Also, nine states are currently considering mandatory E-Verify laws. In total, 25 states have or are considering some kind of E-Verify mandate.
Employers caught hiring undocumented workers are subject to a wide range of consequences. After an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workplace investigation (which are dramatically on the rise), employers could be subject to hefty fines and even imprisonment. Not to mention the cost of a legal battle, the loss of employees, and damage to a business’ reputation which can lead to revenue loss and even the shuttering of a business. Where E-Verify is mandatory and if it becomes mandatory nationwide, businesses are and will be at high-risk of repercussions from the federal government for relying heavily on, what many critics are calling a flawed system. In fact, a report on the employment verification process (I-9 form) and the E-Verify system released in April 2011, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) acknowledged that E-Verify was a system that needed much improvement. However, that acknowledgement of flaws by a federal agency has not absolved employers from ICE investigations and the subsequent consequences, many of whom are required to rely on the system.
E-Verify’s most pressing concern is that, while it verifies a match between a social security number and a name, it still has no way of determining if the person presenting this information to an employer is undeniably who they say they are. Even with E-Verify’s photo identification (where E-Verify shows a photo of the person in question so an employer can match it with any identification said person presents) does not prevent employers from making errors. Essentially, employers are humans and despite the existence of a federal database, they are still subject to making mistakes—mistakes that could be disastrous to themselves and/or their businesses. Critics have suggested that if businesses are required to use E-Verify that there be some kind of “safe harbor.” This would mean that there is protection for employers who do not knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Such as system would encourage employers to use the E-Verify system and allow for human error. Thus far, USCIS and ICE have not addressed this issue but have only spent time, money, and resources trying to convince the American public that E-Verify is useful and productive when, in fact, it is flawed and fundamentally intimidating to employers.