When it comes to preventing unauthorized immigration, border security gets the most attention. Employment verification may be equally important. Nearly half of unauthorized immigrants cross the border legally but overstay their visas. Further, between two-thirds and three-quarters of working unauthorized immigrants pay Social Security taxes, meaning that they were hired with forged or since-expired documents—through the same channels as “documented” legal workers.
Before 1997, the federal government did not enable employers to verify the identifying information that new hires provided. In 1997, it launched the Basic Pilot Program, renamed E-Verify in 2007. E-Verify compares the information that new hires provide on form I-9 to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) records. (Click here for a step-by-step guide.) If records do not match, the system issues a tentative non-confirmation (TNC). After that point, employees who believe they are authorized may contest the claim.
In today’s immigration debate, whether and how soon E-Verify or a similar system should become mandatory is a key point of contention. Some argue that a workable, mandatory employment verification system would be an effective deterrent for unauthorized immigrants and their employers. Others counter that E-Verify needs improvement and that employment verification could force more workers into the underground economy.