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E-Verify Has Problems, And the Government Agrees With Us

Matthew Allee,
Washington Legislative Office
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March 11, 2009

Over the weekend, there was a USA Today article giving prime coverage to those who advocated for an E-Verify requirement as part of the economic stimulus package signed into law a couple weeks ago. E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) employment verification program, would require all employers to verify the work eligibility of new hires through error-ridden government databases. The article was particularly troubling because it incorrectly cited the systemic problems associated with using the E-Verify. Very late in the article, it says:

The business groups and immigrant advocacy groups argue that the E-Verify database is riddled with errors that could result in millions of workers being wrongly identified as not authorized for work. They say requiring its use before hiring would impose a cost burden on employers and open them to lawsuits.

We found this really misleading, because the business and immigrant advocacy groups like the ACLU are not alone in arguing E-Verify will result in delays due to the errors in Americans' files. You know who else agrees with us? The federal government.

As Media Matters reported Monday, numerous federal reports have been published to this point. A 2008 Government Accountability Office report on E-Verify found:

About 7 percent of the queries cannot be immediately confirmed as work authorized by SSA, and about 1 percent cannot be immediately confirmed as work authorized by [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] because employees' information queried through the system does not match information in SSA or DHS databases… because employees' citizenship status or other information, such as name changes, is not up to date in the [Social Security Administration] database, generally because individuals have not notified SSA of information changes that occurred.

Even the Social Security Administration (SSA), one of the governmental agencies potential employees’ records are verified through, admits to errors in its system. An internal assessment in 2006 found that approximately 4.1 percent of records need to be updated and could result in incorrect feedback for employment verification purposes. In fact, the SSA self-reported (PDF) that around 17.8 million of its files contain incorrect data. Of that 17.8 million, 12.7 of those files concern U.S. citizens.

So we're not the only ones who question the reliability of government databases. It's crucial to note that federally commissioned assessments and reports find employment verification systems like E-Verify have significant hurdles to universal implementation — hurdles that, unless fixed, will injure innocent Americans and lawfully present immigrants, as well as our economy as a whole.

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