New Publications and Items of Interest
February 8th, 2011
GAO report on E-Verify. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published "Employment Verification: Federal Agencies Have Taken Steps To Improve E-Verify, But Significant Challenges Remain." The GAO found that since June 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken several steps to improve the accuracy of the E-Verify system, including expanding the number of databases queried through E-Verify and instituting quality control procedures. As a result, the GAO noted, USCIS data indicate that E-Verify immediately confirmed about 97.4 percent of almost 8.2 million newly hired employees as work authorized during fiscal year 2009, compared to 92 percent from fiscal year 2006 to the second quarter of fiscal year 2007.
However, the GAO found that E-Verify errors persist. Also, if an authorized employee's name is recorded differently on various authorizing documents, the E-Verify system is to issue a tentative nonconfirmation (TNC) for the employee. Because such TNCs are more likely to affect foreign-born employees, the GAO said, they can lead to the appearance of discrimination. USCIS has not disseminated information to employees advising them of the importance of consistently recording their names on documentation provided to employers, and the GAO concluded that doing so could help USCIS ensure data accuracy. Furthermore, the GAO said that E-Verify remains vulnerable to identity theft and employer fraud.
The GAO found that USCIS has taken steps to minimize risks to the privacy of personal information for new employees who are processed through E-Verify, but that employees are limited in their ability to identify the source of errors and to determine how to correct information in DHS databases that may have led to an erroneous TNC. To identify and access the source of the incorrect data, the GAO noted, employees must use methods such as Privacy Act requests, which, in fiscal year 2009, took an average of 104 days to process. DHS officials acknowledged that the current process for employees to correct their records could be improved and said the agency is discussing ways to provide employees with better access to relevant information.
The GAO also noted that USCIS and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have taken actions to prepare for possible mandatory implementation of E-Verify for all employers nationwide by addressing key practices for effectively managing E-Verify system capacity and availability and coordinating with each other in operating E-Verify. However, the GAO found that USCIS's lifecycle cost estimates for E-Verify do not reliably depict current costs (i.e., they do not include all costs associated with maintaining and operating E-Verify) and that SSA's estimates do not consider the risk associated with changes in SSA's E-Verify workload. Without taking steps to increase reliability and reduce risks, the agencies are at increased risk of not securing sufficient resources to effectively execute program plans in the future, the GAO said.
Meanwhile, on January 18, 2011, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) issued a statement on the GAO report. He said that E-Verify is a "remarkably effective tool" and a "very successful program," and noted that the House is scheduled to hold a hearing to discuss ways to improve and expand the program "to better protect jobs for legal workers."