A controversial program that has won bipartisan support for stemming the flood of illegal workers is clinging to life despite the Senate’s refusal to extend the program.
Although Congress failed to re-authorize the E-Verify program during deliberations of the omnibus spending bill, E-Verify has the funding it needs to operate through September.
The FY 2009 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security has some fine print that may keep E-Verify alive until September 30, 2009, reports the Heritage Foundation. E-Verify gives employers an online database they can use to verify that a prospective employee is legally qualified to work in the United States.
It was the lack of a requirement that E-Verify be used for stimulus funds that is expected to result in the employment of up to 300,000 illegals on construction jobs funded by the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress.
The conflicting language in the bill about the true end date of E-Verify has spawned a Department of Homeland Security memo speculating that the program can continue to fill its role as a major bulwark to cull illegal immigrant workers from employment in the U.S.
“This agency continues to go on the premise that we are authorized to continue the program because it has been funded through September 2009,” Bill Wright, spokesman for the DHS division that operates the program, tells Newsmax.
According to Heritage, the memo makes two main arguments: (1) the Comptroller General routinely holds that if money is appropriated for a program, it can legally continue for the remaining time of the fiscal year, (2) ending E-Verify would also go against the mandate that DHS must “assist United States employers with maintaining a legal workforce” through the use of E-Verify.
Congress allowed the E-Verify program to expire on Wednesday – frustrating employers’ best and most efficient way to confirm the eligibility of employees to work in the U.S., according to a report by the Heritage Foundation.
Jena Baker McNeill, homeland security policy analyst at the Washington think-tank, laments the apparent passing of the program, noting that by every measure “E-Verify has been a success.
“More than 80,000 employers participate in E-Verify,” she points out, “and the system has confirmed the identity of over 5.3 million workers. The program has been a success because it helps employers enforce immigration laws in a cheap and user-friendly fashion.”
Over the course of the program, E-Verify has earned an error rate of less that 4 percent.
Under the program, an employer enters information provided by a prospective employee into an online portal. The system then compares that data to information in Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases.
In short order, the screen shows either a confirmation or a non-confirmation. “Non-confirmations can be resolved if an employee can later prove that there was a discrepancy in the system. If it is not resolved, a final non-confirmation is issued and the employer is not allowed to hire the worker,” instructs McNeill.
At the end of last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R–Ala., introduced an amendment to the Senate’s version of the omnibus spending bill. This amendment would reauthorize the program for another five years.
Says McNeill: “Given the benefits of E-Verify, it is vital that the program continues.”
Several states have made use of E-Verify mandatory, which courts have found permissible, notes the expert.
Based on its growing popularity, E-Verify appears to be a smashing success. About 1,000 new companies are enlisting in the program each week, and the Center for Immigration Studies reports that enrollment this year is expected to increase by over 167 percent.
CIS research director Steven Camarota tells Newsmax, “E-Verify is our most effective tool for preventing illegal immigrants from getting jobs.”
Pro-immigration organizations complain that E-Verify’s database is less than 100 percent accurate, and could result in someone being unfairly denied employment. Advocates of the system maintain its accuracy rate is over 95 percent, and is improving.
Meanwhile, McNeill wants to ensure not only that Congress renews E-Verify, but that lawmakers expand and strengthen workplace enforcement programs. The proposals include piloting a temporary workers program. “Such a program would serve to diminish the demand for illegal immigrants by allowing those who would normally enter the country illegally to come here legally, make money, and then return home,” he says.
“E-Verify helps responsible employers hire legal workers in an economically viable manner. It and other similar programs are the type of business-friendly and cost-effective programs that Congress should be supporting,” concludes the expert.
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