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Public Statements

Eliminating Jobs for Illegal Immigrants Is Quick and Easy

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Eliminating Jobs for Illegal Immigrants Is Quick and Easy

It's no secret that most illegal immigrants come to the United States to work.

Therefore, if the U.S. eliminates the ability for them to find a job, illegal immigration will cease as a major problem.

The answer to this conundrum is 12 years old. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act contained a provision that came from the Task Force on Immigration Reform I chaired in 1995, one of nearly 50 recommendations to come out of the task force and be included in the bill, that provided for a test program to allow employers to easily and quickly check the employment eligibility of their workers.

The basic pilot program has been a resounding success. Only a lack of political will has stalled its widespread implementation.

In a nutshell, the basic pilot program—now called E-Verify—provides for a single contact with the Social Security Administration to see if an employee's name and Social Security number match and to check the worker's citizenship status in the SSA database. For noncitizens, it also checks work authorization status against a separate Department of Homeland Security database.

E-Verify is computerized and no more cumbersome to an employer than running a customer's credit card at the check stand.

With E-Verify, an employer receives instant confirmation of the worker's right to work in the United States 99.4 percent of the time. Those flagged have a chance to clear up the discrepancy—for the legally employed it's often as simple as a recently married woman needing to update her records with her new surname.

For the foreign-born with a legal right to work here, it's also quickly resolved. Equally important, those who don't have a legal right to work are turned away.

In 2006, the SSA sent more than 10.5 million notices to workers whose names did not match the Social Security number they provided. But SSA didn't follow up, and the workers continued their employment.

Right now the program is voluntary for much of the private and public sector. Those turned away can easily find an employer who doesn't use E-Verify.

Most of the 69,000 employers who use E-Verify say it's an effective and reliable tool for employment verification. The National Federation for Independent Business supports making it mandatory for all employers. Of the workers who contacted local SSA offices as part of the verification process, 95 percent said their work authorization problem was resolved in a timely, courteous and efficient manner.

Many states require E-Verify for government workers and contractors. The federal government requires it for direct employees.

The president recently issued an executive order that implements a bill I introduced that requires all executive branch federal contractors to use E-Verify. I also introduced a bill to expand E-Verify to companies that contract with Congress. It will not be successful, however, until it's mandatory for all.

I've been pressing for that for 12 years and will continue to work with like-minded colleagues to make E-Verify permanent and mandatory for all employers.

Gallegly serves the 24th congressional district in California.


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