This week USCIS proudly announced that 500,000 employers have signed up to use the E-Verify system. Currently, E-verify -- an electronic employment eligibility verification system - is primarily a voluntary program. Employers use E-Verify to check their workers' eligibility to be employed in the United States. Proposals to make E-Verify  permanent and mandatory for all employers have been embraced by both political parties and in both chambers of Congress.

Mandatory E-verify for all employers would  further throw some of the responsibility and costs for enforcing US immigration laws on US business. It has been estimated that it will cost small business $2.6 billion in start-up costs to comply with mandatory E-verify, not including millions in legal fees to comply with the government regulations and defend against lawsuits.

But more disconcerting are the estimates of working people who will lose their jobs because of errors in the system. Error rates have vastly improved over the years, but no system is 100% error-proof. Further, based on a study commissioned by USCIS, the erroneous Tentative Nonconfirmation rate is 0.3% overall and 0.2% for US. citizens. Workers receiving a TCN in error have the extra burden of challenging the TCN determination within 8 business days or risk being fired. To challenge the TCN, the worker must contact either Social Security or Department of Homeland Security to clear up any issues in the database. If the worker fails to clear up the issues within 8 days, the system issues a Final Noncomfirmation notice and the employer must terminate the worker's employment or risk being penalized for knowingly continuing to employ an unauthorized worker. With a 0.3% erroneous TCN rate, it is estimated that at least 500,000 workers would receive erroneous TCN notices. Further, the data reported indicates that 6% of Final Nonconfirmation notices are issued to US citizens or legal work-authorized noncitizens. Once an erroneous FNC is issued, it could take months to resolve the discrepancy - and in the meantime the US citizen or legal work-authorized noncitizen is out of work. 

While calls to "secure the border" and calls for mandatory E-verify sound good, we need to remember that no system is perfect. With the current E-verify system, a noncitizen legally authorized to work in the US is 27 times more likely to receive a TNC than a US citizen, causing these workers to face negative consequences such as lost-time from work without pay up to even loss of their jobs.  Error rates that affect a half million people or more are just too high.

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