E-Verify working smoothly
By Perla Trevizo
The Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN), November 3, 2009
Nearly two months after most federal contractors and subcontractors were required to use the government's employment verification program, local employers report things are running smoothly.
'We've been using E-Verify since the new rules went into effect Sept. 8, (and) so far we've not experienced any adverse financial or administrative issues using the system,' said BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee spokeswoman Mary Thompson. 'It's simply been another step in the hiring and employment verification process.'
Federal contractors with jobs over $100,000 and subcontractors with jobs over $3,000 have to verify that newly hired employees and existing employees assigned to a federal contract are eligible to work in the United States. Certain contracts, such as those less than 120 days, are exempted.
E-Verify is a free Web-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration that compares information from the employment eligibility verification form, the I-9, against federal government databases to verify workers' employment eligibility.
As of Oct. 17, more than 160,000 employers used the system, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials.
More than 15 million queries have been run through the system since fiscal year 2008 and about 97 percent of them are now automatically confirmed as work-authorized within 24 hours or less, a news release stated.
But the program's susceptibility to fraud and the financial burdens that it can impose on employers remain a concern for several chambers of commerce, including Georgia's and Tennessee's.
'The Georgia Chamber and our members support reducing illegal immigration and have invested significant resources and energy in documenting and verifying our employees,' Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO George Israel said in an e-mail.
'The E-Verify program holds promise and has been voluntarily adopted by many employers, but its reliance on outdated technology, its susceptibility to fraud, and the financial and administrative burdens it imposes must be addressed if it is ever to become an effective national verification system,' he added.
'Employers do want to do the right thing,' said Bradley Jackson, vice president for government affairs for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. 'They want to make sure the folks they are hiring are legitimate. We just want to make sure that the system that the federal government mandates us to use works.
'We don't think that's too much to ask. So as we continue to get confirmation that this is a good system, I think you'll get a lot more employers to use it and even rely on it,' he added.
Tera Lusk, manager of employment services with the Hamilton Health Care System, said the hospital enrolled in E-Verify in July and hasn't experienced any hitches or delays.
'We use it for every person we hire and over the last few months we've hired between 30-40 people,' she said.
In 2007 Georgia passed the Georgia Security/Immigration Compliance Act, which included a mandate for public employers to use E-Verify.
A three-year E-Verify funding extension was recently approved by Congress under the Homeland Security Department spending bill.