E-Verify may expand to include driver's data for checking worker status
On May 26, 2011, the Obama administration proposed plans to add driver’s license data to the E-Verify System to determine whether this will help companies better identify people who can legally work in the U.S. This is a further step in the administration’s ongoing effort to make illegal workers a key part of its immigration enforcement policy.
E-Verify is a fast, free Internet-based system that allows businesses to ensure that its workforce is legal. The system cross references worker information against Social Security and immigration records. The system cannot, however, check whether a document is valid or if it belongs to the person presenting it.
USCIS has known about such shortcomings in the E-Verify system for quite some time. While initial attempts to address and correct shortcomings were taken by adding U.S. passport or green card photos to the system, this proved to cover only a small percentage of workers.
Nearly 80 percent of workers, though, use a driver’s license to establish their identity when filling out employment paperwork. Using this data is a logical step and should translate into significant improvements in E-Verify’s effectiveness and its ability to better help identify fake, borrowed or stolen documents.
The USCIS will take a first step in testing whether data such as birth dates and driver’s license numbers can improve E-Verify’s immigration enforcement by adding driver’s license data to the system in Mississippi. The experiment is scheduled to begin as early as this week and it will last about six months. While other states are expected to watch for system improvements in Mississippi, no other states have agreed to share data, though some were asked.
Currently, more than 220,000 of an estimated 7 million employers across the U.S. use E-Verify to check employment eligibility for workers, and, according to USCIS, about 1,000 new businesses sign up for the system each week. While participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most U.S. businesses, it is mandatory for companies with federal contracts and for most employers in Arizona and Mississippi.
Including driver’s license data in E-Verify has raised questions about how making this data available in E-Verify may affect individuals’ privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other opponents of E-Verify say that the government would be creating a database filled with personal information on U.S. workers, which would be a primary target for identity theft.
A spokesman for Mississippi’s Department of Public Safety said that employers will not have direct access to any information they do not already have. They will simply enter a driver’s license number and other information into the online system, then the system will confirm whether there is a match or not.
Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to introduce a bill that will require every business in the U.S. to use E-Verify. Businesses anticipate it becoming mandatory in this session of Congress.