ICE, E-Verify, and the New Presidency: What Lies Ahead for Businesses...

by Tom Ahearn November 26, 2008

The use of the federal E-Verify program to identify illegal workers has become a focal topic among business owners and human resource professionals as more and more states mandate its use. With history-making immigration raids, a renewal of the system and a new administration moving into the White House with an agenda to create new jobs for Americans, employers must go further than E-Verify to protect their companies.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates there are approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The new administration promises to revive the 700,000 plus jobs that have been lost to Americans over the past eleven months and replacing illegal immigrant workers with American workers will likely be a continued effort to improve opportunity.

Industries that rely on immigrant labor or migrant workers may be forced to shift to better working conditions, competitive salaries, and extensive benefits that will attract legal citizens.  This will be a necessity to survive in the marketplace and avoid investigations, fines, or possible arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

But ICE isn’t just looking for big bites, they are actively researching any information they receive on illegal immigrants and employers, large or small, who are knowingly or unknowingly in violation of immigration laws. Form error violations can range from $110 per error up to $1100 per form.

The intention of the E-Verify program was to help businesses comply, but it was not intended to protect businesses from liability or identity theft issues. The exclusive use of E-Verify is inadequate due to the system’s inability to detect multiple use of the same Social Security number.

 “Many employers are under the misconception that simply verifying a Social Security number through the E-Verify system protects them from liability associated with hiring illegal aliens,” says David Perrine, Senior Corporate Counsel for I-9Compliance.com, a new web-based Form I-9 compliance service. “In fact, all E-Verify certifies is that the Social Security number submitted is valid. The system has no internal mechanism to guard in any way against a person who has stolen someone else’s identity."

Such was the case with Howard Industries, a billion dollar electronics manufacturing plant in Laurel, Mississippi this past summer. As one of the largest immigration raids in history, 595 alleged illegal aliens were arrested and criminal prosecutions are being pursued against certain employees, including management, for various crimes related to identity theft. Although the company claimed it submitted new hires properly through E-Verify, they failed to implement measures to protect against identity theft.

Mississippi is one of the states that have adopted mandatory use of E-Verify for I-9 compliance purposes. Currently seven states require the employer’s use of E-Verify (MN, CO, AZ, OK, MS, GA, RI) and fifteen states are running behind with recommendations. Perrine says that any employer who fails to protect themselves from hiring individuals who are not legally in this country are playing ‘Russian roulette’ with the viability of their company and subjecting themselves to criminal prosecution. 

Companies will have to go the extra mile to verify legal working status if using manual processes. I-9 compliance automation services that work with E-Verify can detect matching Social Security numbers within the organization and alerts when documents are expiring, something E-Verify won’t do on its own. The management process becomes effortless and risks are reduced tenfold.

The Social Security Trace in a background check and past employment verifications can help employers discover whether or not the person who is using the identification is the actual card holder. When the background check has been examined along with all other documentation and the applicant has been hired, eligibility through the E-Verify system can be verified and due diligence has been accomplished.

Companies can outsource all of these needs at minimal cost with the added benefit of reduced liability. And, more importantly, compliance helps companies contribute to improving the economy by ensuring jobs to legal Americans.

For information on how your company can reduce risks, eliminate errors and paperwork, and maintain compliance, visit www.I-9Compliance.com or call 800-300-1821 to speak to an I-9 Compliance Service Representative. I-9Compliance.com is a designated E-Verify service provider.

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