E-ver­ify job-check sys­tem is un­der­uti­lized, agency says

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

U.S. im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices have the ca­pac­ity to han­dle ad­di­tional re­quests if more states man­date that busi­nesses use E-ver­ify — the gov­ern­ment’s vol­un­tary sys­tem to check em­ploy­ees’ le­gal sta­tus — but would need time to ac­com­mo­date a na­tion­wide pro­gram, the agency’s di­rec­tor said Thurs­day.

“We have the ca­pac­ity cur­rently to process far more queries than we cur­rently han­dle. And so we can right now han­dle the ex­pan­sion of E-ver­ify to ad­di­tional states. But if it was man­dated across the coun­try, it would take us some time to ramp up for that ex­po­nen­tially greater vol­ume,” said Ale­jan­dro May­orkas, di­rec­tor of U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, the agency that han­dles le­gal­im­mi­gra­tion ben­e­fits.

E-ver­ify al­lows em­ploy­ers to check names against in­for­ma­tion from the So­cial Se­cu­rity data­base to see whether po­ten­tial new hires are au­tho­rized to work in the U.S.

It is cur­rently vol­un­tary un­der fed­eral law, but four states have passed manda­tory E-ver­ify laws for all their busi­nesses: Ari­zona, South Carolina, Alabama and Mis­sis­sippi.

The Supreme Court has up­held the Ari­zona law, turn­ing back a chal­lenge from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

An ad­di­tional 13 states re­quire state agen­cies, gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors, or both, to run their em­ploy­ees through the sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to Num­ber­susa, a group that lob­bies for stricter im­mi­gra­tion lim­its. E-ver­ify leg­is­la­tion has been in­tro­duced in a hand­ful of other states as well.

But states where use is manda­tory have seen vary­ing lev­els of com­pli­ance. A Washington Times anal­y­sis of the logs of those signed up to use E-ver­ify shows a num­ber of busi­nesses in those states have failed to com­ply with their laws.

The Times last year even found a half-dozen U.S. sen­a­tors who weren’t com­ply­ing with the fed­eral law man­dat­ing all con­gres­sional of­fices use the sys­tem. All the of­fices signed up to use the sys­tem af­ter The Times’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

More than 17 mil­lion checks were run through the sys­tem in fis­cal year 2011.

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man La­mar Smith has writ­ten a bill that would make E-ver­ify manda­tory for all new hires across the coun­try. The leg­is­la­tion passed out of his com­mit­tee last year, but has since stalled, ac­cord­ing to Re­pub­li­can lead­ers, who said it is mired in other com­mit­tees. Af­ter pass­ing Ju­di­ciary, the leg­is­la­tion was re­ferred to two other pan­els, which have not acted. An aide on the Ju­di­ciary panel said Mr. Smith’s leg­is­la­tion phases in the checks, which would give E-ver­ify a chance to ramp up. It also gives the Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary a waiver power to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion for six months.

As for ad­di­tional re­sources, the aide said, the ad­min­is­tra­tion could sub­mit any new needs to the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee.

Mr. May­orkas said he was “not in a po­si­tion to com­ment” on the House bill.

The agency ear­lier this year ex­panded a pi­lot pro­gram so that peo­ple across the county can now check them­selves to see whether the sys­tem says they are le­gal work­ers. Self-check­ing gives users a chance to clear up any po­ten­tial er­rors, such as a name change or im­mi­gra­tion-sta­tus up­date, that could de­lay ap­proval when they ap­ply for a job in the fu­ture.

Mr. May­orkas said 102,942 peo­ple had self­checked their sta­tus as of Thurs­day.

He spoke to re­porters as he laid out his agency’s pri­or­i­ties for 2012, in­clud­ing step­ping up ef­forts to combat fraud and try­ing to be more con­sis­tent in the de­ci­sions it makes on the 6 mil­lion to 7 mil­lion ap­pli­ca­tions for im­mi­gra­tion ben­e­fits it ad­ju­di­cates each year.

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