The future of immigration reform hinges on assuring the American people that our immigration laws will be enforced. In the past, Americans were promised tougher enforcement in exchange for the legalization of those unlawfully in the U.S. Succeeding Administrations never kept these promises and today we are left with a broken immigration system.
One way to make sure we discourage illegal immigration in the future is to prevent unlawful immigrants from getting jobs in the U.S. Requiring the use of E-Verify by all employers across the country will help do just that. The web-based program is a reliable and fast way for employers to electronically check the work eligibility of newly hired employees.
H.R. 1772, the Legal Workforce Act, builds on E-Verify's success and helps ensure the strong enforcement that was promised to the American people many years ago.
The Legal Workforce Act doesn't simply leave enforcement up to the federal government.
In fact, it actually empowers states to help enforce the law, ensuring that we don't continue the enforcement mistakes of the past where a President can "turn-off' federal enforcement efforts unilaterally.
Over 450,000 employers are currently signed up to use E-Verify. It is easy for employers to use and is effective. In fact as USICS testified in front of this Subcommittee this past February, E-Verify's accuracy rate for confirmation of work eligibility is 99.7 percent.
But the system is not perfect. For instance, in cases of identity theft, when an individual submits stolen identity documents and information, E-Verify may confirm the work eligibility of that individual.
This happens because E-Verify uses a Social Security Number (SSN) or alien identification number and certain other corresponding identifying information such as the name and date of birth of an individual, to determine if the SSN or alien identification number associated with that corresponding information is work eligible. Thus if an individual uses a stolen SSN and the real name corresponding with that SSN, a false positive result could occur.
The Legal Workforce Act addresses identity theft in several ways. First, it requires notification to employees who submit for E-Verify a SSN that shows a pattern of unusual multiple use. So the rightful owner of the SSN will know that their SSN may have been compromised.
And once they confirm this, DHS and SSA must "lock" that SSN so no one else can use it for employment eligibility purposes.
The bill also creates a program through which parents or legal guardians can "lock" the SSNs of their minor children for work eligibility purposes. This is to combat the rise in the number of thefts of children's identities.
But there are other changes that should also be made. For instance, in order to help prevent identity theft, USCIS created and utilizes the photo-match tool in which photos from greencards, work authorization documents and passports can be seen during the use of E-verify in order to help ensure that the person submitting the identity document is in fact the person who owns that document. But I recently learned that USCIS materials regarding the use of E-Verify specifically state that "A photo displayed in E-Verify should be compared with the photo in the document that the employee has presented and not with the face of the employee."
What good is the photo match tool to prevent identity theft if the employer is prohibited from matching the photos to the person submitting the identity document? This policy is ludicrous and we will look to address it as this legislation moves forward.
The bill also phases-in E-Verify use in six month increments beginning with the largest U.S. businesses, raises penalties for employers who don't use E-Verify according to the requirements, allows employers to use E-Verify prior to the date they hire an employee and provides meaningful safe harbors for employers who use the system in good faith.
H.R. 1772 balances the needs of the American people regarding immigration enforcement with the needs of the business community regarding a fair and workable electronic employment verification system.
While I want to continue working with the business community and other stakeholders to address any additional concerns with the bill, I am pleased to be an original cosponsor and look forward to the testimony of the witnesses today.