E-Verify gets extension and more money in spending bill

Employment verification program would get $137 million funding

The E-Verify electronic employment verification program would get a three-year extension and $137 million to operate in fiscal 2010 under the Homeland Security Department spending bill approved by Congress.

The Senate passed  the $43 billion appropriations bill Oct. 20 after the House passed the same legislation a week earlier. The measure would require that $30 million of the E-Verify funding will shall remain unspent until September 2011 but does not offer a reason for that provision.

The Internet-based E-Verify system is a mostly voluntary program that allows employers to check Social Security numbers for their employees and prospective employees to determine whether the numbers are valid and the employees are therefore eligible to work. However, it is not designed to detect borrowed or stolen Social Security numbers. DHS officials say that 3.1 percent of the inquiries to E-Verify receive an initial non-matching determination.

The program's use has been increasing as part of the push to reduce illegal immigration; however, it is controversial among business groups and civil rights advocates who say it is costly and cumbersome to implement and may lead to discrimination against some workers. E-Verify became mandatory for federal contractors on Sept. 8 and is partially mandatory in 12 states.

Legal authorization for E-Verify expired on Sept. 30. The Senate considered, but rejected, amendments to permanently extend E-Verify.

“While the federal government’s employment verification system remains controversial for its vulnerability to fraud and its reliance on outdated technologies, employers see it as a bridge to establishing an effective and efficient national employment verification system,” the Human Resource Initiative for a Legal Workforce advocacy group said in a statement. The workforce supports adding a biometric identifier to the E-Verify system to safeguard against identity theft.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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