Washington — The nation's top immigration official on Tuesday defended a federal system — known as E-Verify — that allows businesses to check the legal status of workers.
"E-Verify is the best available tool for employers to gain quick and easy verification information for their new hires," said Jonathan Scharfen, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Scharfen testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law amid concern the system could reject legal citizens.
Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-08), who sits on the Subcommittee, had this to say during the proceedings:
Some of the businesses that have signed up have reported a variety of challenges with using E-Verify. They are finding it complicated, unreliable, and burdensome. They are also having difficulty getting answers from DHS to their questions about the system.
I have heard from employers, employees and civil rights advocates who are very vocal that nationally mandating E-Verify AS-IS for ALL employees would be disastrous.
They are all experiencing the downfalls of using an inaccurate database with inadequate privacy protections. Between October 2006 and March 2007, roughly 3,000 foreign-born U.S. citizens were initially flagged as not-work-authorized. These errors have specifically impacted Arizona workers who have had their ability to work wrongly impacted.
The experience of Arizona employers and employees makes it clear that we can do better and that action is needed.
Having reflected on what is happening in Arizona and the challenges we have seen, I think we need a system that includes these three key elements:
That is why I am a cosponsor of legislation introduced by Ranking Member Sam Johnson. H.R. 5515, the New Employee Verification Act, or NEVA provides a simplified, effective and balanced alternative to E-Verify.
- Explicitly pre-emption of state laws such as the one in Arizona;
- Privacy protections for U.S. citizens and legal workers;
- Liability protections for employers who play by the rules; and
Johnson, a Republican from Plano, Texas, is ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee overseeing Social Security. He and Giffords' bill would transfer the verification of employment process from E-Verify to the Social Security Administration. It would effectively cut out the Department of Homeland Security unless a worker is flagged in the process.
As it stands currently, DHS is monitoring every single worker that is entered into their online database, regardless of status. It'll be interesting to see if such a big change in policy can make its way through the Hill in an election year.