U.S. Representative Judy Biggert today joined local business leaders for an informational briefing on the Department of Homeland Security's electronic employment verification program called E-Verify. At an event hosted by the Downers Grove, Lisle, and Greater Oak Brook Chambers of Commerce, Biggert and other federal officials provided business operators with a live demonstration of the free, Internet-based system that allows employers to screen a new employee's Social Security and foreign identification numbers in order to verify if he or she is in the country legally or is authorized to work in the United States. Business owners that already participate in the voluntary program also were given the opportunity to voice their opinions about potential improvements to the system, which is up for renewal in Congress.
"American citizens and legal immigrants who play by the rules shouldn't have to compete for jobs with those who break the law," said Biggert. "First and foremost, we must secure our borders, but we also need to reduce the incentives that drive illegal immigration. Many of our local employers want to be an active part of that solution."
Formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program, E-Verify has been available since 1997. It allows employers to quickly and easily check a new employee's legal status by authenticating his or her Social Security Number and other Form I-9 information. As of August 23rd, there are 82,894 employers participating in E-Verify -- 1,755 in Illinois alone. On average, about 1,000 new employers sign up every week. Under a state law signed by Governor Blagojevich in 2007, Illinois employers were set to be prohibited from participating in the program; however, a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security prevented the new law from being implemented.
"Governor Blagojevich and his allies in Springfield made a serious mistake by trying to block well-intentioned business owners from verifying the legal status of their employees," said Biggert. "With close to 13 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, we should be taking steps to enforce our nation's laws, not undermine them."
Due to uncertainty created by the legislation and the lawsuit, many Illinois business operators were hesitant to participate in E-Verify. Today's event allowed employers to hear directly from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about the availability and proper use of the system. Also presenting their views were several local business operators that have successfully utilized the online tool.
"The goal is to perfect the program so that everyone can participate," said Biggert. "Hearing from local business owners about their experiences with the system provides us with the insights we need to do just that."