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Public Statements

Letter to Mr. Alejandro Mayorkas, Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Today, thirty-eight members of Congress joined Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard in sending a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas calling for the creation of a review process that would enable workers to effectively challenge E-Verify errors. Unfortunately, under the seriously flawed program, citizens and lawful immigrants currently have no way of challenging a final declaration of ineligibility to hold employment.

"Based on documented error rates, as many as 85,000 citizens and lawful immigrants may have lost their jobs last year because of E-Verify," said Rep. Roybal-Allard. "This is simply unacceptable at a time when so many are struggling to make ends meet. We owe it to workers to establish a simple, transparent process for fixing these mistakes. As it stands now, far from being a solution to our immigration challenges, E-Verify is simply another example of why our immigration system is so badly broken."

Immigrant advocates joined the congresswoman and her colleagues in demanding the creation of an official means for workers to correct meritless E-Verify decisions. "E-Verify is an error-prone program that denies job opportunities to tens of thousands of people, U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants alike, without any recourse," said Emily Tulli, policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. "Because of glitches in the government program, hardworking citizens and lawful immigrants are unfairly denied work and robbed of a way to provide for their families. Director Mayorkas should heed Congress' advice, ensure a fair review process, and remove this hurdle to employment."

Despite E-Verify's serious defects, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is currently championing a bill that would make the program mandatory for every employer in the nation, potentially imperiling millions of workers' livelihoods.

Please see the full text of the letter below.

May 1, 2012

Mr. Alejandro Mayorkas
Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
20 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 5110
Washington, DC 20529

Dear Director Mayorkas:

Under your leadership, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken meaningful steps to expand protections for employees under the E-Verify program. However, in these trying economic times, additional reforms are urgently needed to prevent citizens and lawful immigrants from being unjustly barred from their jobs. Specifically, recognizing the significant impact of wrongful determinations on workers and their families, we write to urge you to establish an administrative review process that would enable individuals to contest erroneous Final Non-Confirmations (FNCs).

As you know, since 2008, use of E-Verify has dramatically expanded nationwide. Approximately 17.4 million people were processed in Fiscal Year 2011 and every week roughly 1,000 new employers enroll in the program. In addition, most federal contractors are now required to check the work-eligibility of new hires using E-Verify and, following the Supreme Court's Whiting decision earlier this term, more states are likely to mandate the use of E-Verify in the coming year.

However, despite the program's rapid growth, E-Verify remains seriously flawed. According to a 2009 Westat study and USCIS data, 0.5 percent of all Final Non-Confirmations are issued erroneously. While this error rate might appear insignificant, under current law, employers are required to dismiss any worker who receives an FNC. With 17 million E-Verify queries in FY 2011, this means that as many as 85,000 people may have lost their jobs in a struggling economy because of the program's deficiencies. Even more troublingly, in states where participation in E-Verify is mandatory, an erroneous FNC will likely serve as a total bar to obtaining employment.

Moreover, the program's defects have disproportionately affected minority communities. E-Verify error rates are thirty times higher for naturalized U.S. citizens and fifty times higher for legal non-immigrants than for native-born U.S. citizens. This means that foreign-born workers--who already face higher unemployment rates than the general population--are more likely to be locked out of jobs than their native counterparts.

In light of these disturbing figures, we believe a fair process should exist for authorized workers to effectively challenge wrongful work-eligibility determinations. Unfortunately, as your agency has publicly acknowledged, USCIS currently lacks any official means for individuals to correct an inaccurate FNC.

Thankfully, on February 13th, your Verification Division and Office of Public Engagement held discussions with key stakeholders about how this shortcoming could be rectified. We strongly urge you to build on this important first step by moving swiftly to establish a transparent review process that would enable authorized individuals to overturn FNC's issued in error. Doing so is critical--particularly for low-income citizens unfairly harmed by E-Verify--and would address one of the program's most significant weaknesses. It would also reaffirm your commitment to upholding workers' rights and your agency's determination, as stated in its Core Values, to "always strive for the highest level of integrity."

Sincerely,

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard

Rep. Joe Baca

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop

Rep. Michael Capuano

Rep. Judy Chu

Rep. Hansen Clarke

Rep. Yvette Clarke

Rep. Gerald Connolly

Rep. John Conyers

Rep. Diana DeGette

Rep. Theodore Deutch

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Rep. Sam Farr

Rep. Bob Filner

Rep. Charles Gonzalez

Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Rep. Janice Hahn

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa

Rep. Mazie Hirono

Rep. Michael Honda

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Rep. George Miller

Rep. James Moran

Rep. Gwen Moore

Rep. Grace Napolitano

Rep. John Olver

Rep. Pedro Pierluisi

Rep. Jared Polis

Rep. Charles Rangel

Rep. Laura Richardson

Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan

Rep. Janice Schakowsky

Rep. Albio Sires

Rep. Fortney Pete Stark

Rep. Edolphus Towns


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