Immigrants' Rights Update, Vol. 21, Issue 8, October 5, 2007
New Illinois Laws Create Important Protections Against Flaws in Employment Eligibility Verification Basic Pilot
By Tyler Moran
Employment Policy Director
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently signed two bills into law that create important protections for all Illinois workers against flaws in the federal Basic Pilot program, which the government recently “rebranded” as “E-Verify.”
Basic Pilot/E-Verify is a voluntary Internet-based program whose purpose is to allow employers to electronically verify workers’ employment eligibility by accessing information in databases maintained by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unfortunately, the program has been plagued by a multitude of problems since its inception in 1997, including (1) its reliance on government databases that have unacceptably high error rates and (2) employer misuse of the program to take adverse action against workers. (For a summary of NILC’s concerns, see Basic Pilot/E-Verify: Not a Magic Bullet (Sept. 2007, PDF)).
The new laws — HB 1743 and HB 1744, which the governor signed on Aug. 13, 2007 — were supported by both the Illinois AFL-CIO and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. The laws amend the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (1) by providing that before Illinois businesses can register to use Basic Pilot/E 'Verify to verify their new employees’ work eligibility, the accuracy of the databases on which the program relies must rise to a high standard, and (2) by enacting important state antidiscrimination and privacy protections.
Specifically, the new Illinois laws require employers that use Basic Pilot/E 'Verify to comply with program rules outlined in the memorandum of understanding they sign with the DHS and SSA. These rules, in turn, require employers to safeguard information obtained from Basic Pilot/E-Verify to protect workers’ confidentiality, and require personnel who administer the program to complete any trainings or tutorials on Basic Pilot/E-Verify offered by DHS.
These laws are an important victory for all workers, as the latest independent evaluation of Basic Pilot/E-Verify concluded that “the rate of employer noncompliance [with the program rules] is still unacceptably high.” In December 2006, SSA’s Office of the Inspector General also concluded that 42 percent of employers were not using the program as the government intends it to be used.
On Sept. 24, 2007, the federal government, on behalf of DHS, filed a lawsuit against Illinois in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, challenging the provision in the law that prohibits employers from participating in Basic Pilot/E-Verify until the databases on which it relies reach a certain high level of accuracy. The lawsuit does not challenge the Illinois law provisions regarding compliance with program requirements, antidiscrimination protections, and privacy protections, however.