Despite concerns from business groups and immigrant advocates about a government Web-based employment verification program, a growing number of local companies are using it.
Since the voluntary program E-Verify was offered to employers in 2004, almost 4,000 Georgia companies and more than 800 businesses in Tennessee have signed up to participate in the federal program, including 50 employers in Chattanooga and 96 in Dalton, Ga.
The E-Verify program is a voluntary, Internet-based program established to allow employers to verify workers’ employment eligibility electronically with the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.
“We have been using E-Verify without any real problems for three years,” said Kary Klein, owner of the temporary hiring firm SmartHire in Chattanooga. “I could see the trend coming, and I think eventually most employers are going to have to use it. We want to be a leader in our industry, so we began using E-Verify very early.”
Jessica Jones, an employee at SmartHire, said the computer check of new hires is quick and easy.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
* Within three days of hiring an employee, the participating employer is required to enter information such as the employee’s name, date of birth, Social Security number and citizenship status into E-Verify. Within seconds, the employer receives a response.
* If there’s a tentative nonconfirmation or “mismatch,” the employer must notify the employee and give him or her the opportunity to contest that finding.
* If the employee chooses to contest the “mismatch,” he or she has eight business days to visit a Social Security Administration office with the required documents to prove identity.
* Until the “mismatch” is resolved, the employee must be allowed to keep working and cannot be fired or have any other employment-related action taken against him or her.
Source: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
But a proposal from the Bush administration in June to require all companies doing business with the federal government to use E-Verify has drawn fire from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Human Resource Initiative for a Legal Workforce and the Immigration Police Center, among others.
Critics contend E-Verify could prove costly, especially when workers are hired and then later have to be dismissed if the worker’s status isn’t verified.
Randel Johnson, a vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said requiring all federal contractors to participate in E-Verify “raises many unnecessary practical problems which will make ever more complex an already overly complicated federal procurement system.”
D.A. King, president of the anti-immigration group known as the Dustin Inman Society in Marietta, Ga., dismisses such criticism.
“This program not only ought to be renewed by the Congress, but it ought to be mandated for all employers,” he said. “Every employer should be happy to comply with the law and be sure that they have hired lawful workers.”
Mr. King said E-Verify is essential for compliance of public employers and state contractors under laws in Georgia and some other states.
Arizona and Mississippi have laws requiring all employers in the state to use E-Verify, and Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Utah require some employers to use the program.
The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, which went into effect last year, requires employers that have state contracts to use E-Verify. The law now requires E-Verify usage only for state contractors with 100 or more employees, but after July 1, 2009, it will include all state contractors.
Critics argue E-Verify is a flawed system that has high error rates and could have great consequences for legal workers and U.S. citizens.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration databases have errors, said Michele Waslin, senior policy analyst with the Immigration Policy Center, a research institution dedicated to studying the contributions immigrants have made to America.
“Sometimes if (the employer) doesn’t get a confirmation back, they don’t tell the person,” Dr. Waslin said. “In some cases they just fire the person without giving them the chance to fix that problem. There is certainly a possibility of discrimination and misusing the system.”
In a December 2006 report, the inspector general of the Social Security Administration estimated that 17.8 million, or 4.1 percent, of the agency’s 435 million individual records contained discrepancies that could result in a no-match letter being sent to a legally authorized worker. Of those records with errors, 12.7 million belonged to native-born Americans, records show.
If these error rates were not fixed before a mandatory Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification System was implemented, they could result in a minimum of 11,000 workers per day being flagged as ineligible for employment, according to the Cato Institute, a nonprofit public policy research foundation in Washington, D.C.
Officials with local personnel agencies using the system for new hires say they are not experiencing such problems.
“It’s been very easy for us to work with and quite user friendly,” said David Crisp, vice president for Olsten Staffing Services in Chattanooga. “Once the word gets out that you are using the system, very few people come to you who might have a problem with their immigration status.”
Staff writer Dave Flessner contributed to this story.
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...