Department of Homeland (DHS) Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the Obama Administration's support for a George W. Bush Administration regulation that would only award federal contracts to employers who use E-Verify to check employee work authorization, according to a DHS press release.
E-Verify compares information provided in the I-9 employment eligibility verification form against federal government databases to verify employment eligibility. According to the release, it "is a free web-based system operated by DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The system facilitates compliance with federal immigration laws and helps to deter unauthorized individuals from attempting to work and also helps employers avoid employing unauthorized aliens."
E-Verify has been the target of criticism and lawsuits. In 2007, a report by contract research organization Westat on the E-Verify pilot program found numerous problems with its databases and stated that "since work-authorized foreign-born employees are more likely than U.S.-born employees to receive tentative nonconfirmation erroneously, the result is increased discrimination against foreign-born employees." In 2008, an American Civil Liberties Union press release argued that the program was so flawed that it should be scrapped entirely. And late last year the U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenged the legality of requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify, which the Chamber argues is designed to be a voluntary program. Co-plaintiffs on the lawsuit included the Society for Human Resources Management and the American Council on International Personnel. That case is pending.
The DHS release stated that:
In addition to expanding participation, DHS continues to enhance E-Verify in order to guard against errors, enforce compliance, promote proper usage, and enhance security. Recent E-Verify advancements include new processes to reduce typographical errors and new features to reduce initial mismatches. In May 2008, DHS added access to naturalization database records which increased the program’s ability to automatically verify naturalized citizens’ status, reducing citizenship-related mismatches by 39 percent. Additionally, in February 2009, the agency incorporated Department of State passport data in the E-Verify process to reduce mismatches among foreign-born citizens. Other initiatives underway will bring further improvements to Federal database accuracy; add new tools to prevent fraud, misuse, and discrimination; strengthen training, monitoring, and compliance; and enhance privacy protections.
Implementation of the rule is scheduled to begin on September 8, 2009.