Chairman Smith: The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits the hiring of individuals who are not authorized to work in the United States. And it requires employers to check the immigration status of an employee and make sure that the identification document submitted by the employee "reasonably appears on its face to be genuine."
That requirement was put in place by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Unfortunately the underground market for fraudulent identification documents grew extensively after the enactment of this bill.
Fake documents, which can be obtained cheaply and are produced by the millions, have made a mockery of these identification requirements.
Dishonest employees simply hand employers fake documents that "reasonably appear to be genuine," and an honest employer has no recourse other than to accept them. And many dishonest employers actually welcome employees who submit counterfeit identification documents so they can pay lower wages or otherwise exploit illegal immigrant employees. Sometimes these dishonest employers themselves actually obtain the documents for the illegal workers.
In response, Senator Alan Simpson and I drafted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which contains a pilot program to provide employers with an accurate and easy way to determine employment eligibility.
The Basic Pilot Program, now known as E-Verify, is run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in conjunction with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Through E-Verify, the Social Security numbers and alien identification numbers of new hires are checked against SSA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases in order to help employers determine who is eligible to work in the U.S. As this Subcommittee has heard in testimony many times, E-Verify is free, quick and easy to use.
E-Verify can be vulnerable to identity theft. If an employee provides an employer with a stolen Social Security Number and matching identity information, E-Verify will determine that the Social Security number is one that is work-eligible.
USCIS has taken steps to help close the ID theft loophole. For instance, they have incorporated the photo matching tool. This allows an employer to view a picture of the employee--from a greencard, an employment authorization document or a passport--to determine that the employee is in fact the person to whom that Social Security number or alien identification number was issued.
And H.R. 2885, the "Legal Workforce Act," a bipartisan bill that was approved by the Judiciary Committee last September, gives USCIS and SSA additional tools to help recognize and prevent identity theft.
For instance, the bill requires DHS to allow individuals to "lock" their own Social Security number so that it cannot be used by imposters to verify work eligibility.
It also requires USCIS to "lock" a Social Security Number that shows a pattern of unusual multiple use. And it imposes significant criminal penalties on employers and employees who engage in or aid identity theft.
In addition, H.R. 2885 requires individuals who have likely been victims of identity theft for work authorization purposes to be notified of that likelihood so they can then take steps to prevent further illegal use of their identity.
As long as the IRCA standard -- whether an identification document "reasonably appears on its face to be genuine," -- is the only requirement for employers, illegal immigrants will be able to easily cheat the system and get U.S. jobs.
With today's technology, it makes no sense to use a paper-based error-prone system when a successful web-based option is available. It's time to bring our I-9 system into the 21st century.
American jobs and identities could easily be protected by simply requiring all employers to use E-Verify and by improving E-Verify to help close the identity theft loophole.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.