E-Verify Error Rate Rises for Immigrant Workers

August. 27, 2013

Gebe Martinez, 703-731-9505, [email protected]

National Immigration Law Center Analysis of U.S.-Commissioned Report Underscores Need for Worker Protections in E-Verify

E-Verify Error Rate Rises for Immigrant Workers

WASHINGTON — If implemented without basic worker protections, a mandate that would require all employers in the U.S. to use an electronic employment eligibility verification system such as E-Verify will exacerbate workplace discrimination, according to a new report by the National Immigration Law Center.

NILC analysts who examined data from a recently released Westat report on E-Verify in the context of previously released studies of the program concluded that, if such a mandate were implemented without strict worker protections, hundreds of thousands of authorized workers might lose their jobs due to government error. (The government-commissioned Westat report, which is dated July 2012, was not released to the public until July 2013.)

Every major current immigration reform proposal includes a mandate that all employers in the U.S. use E-Verify to determine whether their employees are eligible to work in the U.S. The Senate immigration reform proposal includes protections that would, for example, allow workers who have been falsely flagged as unauthorized to work to correct their records. The Senate bill also provides that employers who abuse the system should face specific penalties. A current House proposal, known as the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772), lacks such protections.

“Reams of ink have been spilled on E-Verify, but legislators in Washington have stayed relatively silent about the potential consequences of such a nationally mandated program, especially if it is implemented in haste,” said Josh Stehlik, a NILC’s workers’ rights attorney. “The government’s own data show that hundreds of thousands of workers will have to either contact a government office or risk losing their job, and that employers often fail even to tell their workers that they need to straighten out a possible error in their records.”

Among the key issues highlighted in NILC’s analysis is that many employers who currently use E-Verify either inadvertently or deliberately violate the program’s rules, often with dramatic consequences for workers.

For example, many employers either do not inform workers of initial warnings that they may not be authorized to work or of notices that they need to follow up with the Social Security Administration. Meanwhile, no adequate system is in place for workers to contest E-Verify errors, which inevitably results in too many of them having to face financial and emotional hardship.

Some unscrupulous employers also have been found to “E-Verify” workers who complain of substandard working conditions, as way of intimidating them. Moreover, weak monitoring of employers’ compliance leaves little incentive for them to strictly adhere to the program’s rules.

“Unless E-Verify mandates are paired with strong measures that protect workers’ basic due process rights and allow those wrongly accused of being unauthorized to challenge the errors, the program will simply become another expensive immigration enforcement failure,” said Don Lyster, director of NILC’s DC office. “Legislators in the House of Representatives should take a look at the lessons already learned from E-Verify before rushing to advance legislation that would force this system upon every mom-and-pop business in America.”

NILC’s full report, “Verification Nation: How E-Verify Affects America’s Workers,” is available at www.nilc.org/document.html?id=957. A two-page summary of the report’s findings and recommendations is available at www.nilc.org/document.html?id=959.

Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the only advocacy organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. NILC uses a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to advance its mission. Over the past three decades, NILC has won landmark legal decisions protecting fundamental rights, thwarted policies that would have devastated the lives of low-income immigrants and their family members, and advanced major policies that reinforce our nation’s values of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.

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