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E-Verify hiring mandate dropped from stimulus bill

It would have required employers to vet immigration status of workers

February 13, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A provision that would have forced employers who get money federal stimulus money to first vet the employment status of their workers using the federal E-Verify program has been stripped from the final version of the $787 billion spending package.

The move is a victory for those who called the E-Verify requirement unnecessary and said it would seriously delay numerous projects, especially "shovel-ready" ones in the construction sector. But it is likely to come as a disappointment to those who felt the provision would prevent illegal immigrants from getting stimulus jobs paid by taxpayer dollars.

Also excised from the final conference report was a provision that would have extended the E-Verify program beyond March 6, when it is set to expire. However, an extension could still be included in other legislation before the program ends.

The E-Verify system is run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Citizen and Immigration Services, together with the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is a free Internet-based employment eligibility verification system that lets employers compare information from an employee's job application with data from the DHS and SSA to determine work eligibility in the U.S.

According to a DHS description of the program, the SSA database against which the matching is done contains more than 425 million records, while the DHS's immigration databases hold more than 60 million records. In most cases, employers get search results in seconds. Only about 100,000 employers out of more than 7 million in the U.S. are currently signed up for the program.

Recent enhancements to the E-Verify system include a photo-screening tool for biometric verification and naturalization data that can be used to confirm the citizenship status of recently naturalized U.S. citizens. All federal contractors and subcontractors were supposed to start using the program this May under the assumption that it will be renewed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today described the E-Verify system as a "flawed" verification program. Including E-Verify in the stimulus bill would have held Americans "hostage to bad government data and even worse government database systems," said Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU. He noted that the databases on which the E-Verify program is based are outdated and flawed.

"The reason why we don't have mandatory verification is because the government hasn't done the hard work of going back and scrubbing those databases clean" of flawed and outdated information, he said. Neither has there been any effort to build a system for helping out individuals erroneously identified by the system as being ineligible to work in the U.S., he said.

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