Monday, July 27, 2009

Biometric Data on All Workers Proposed

by Lindsey Daniel, AFSC Policy Intern

In a Senate hearing last week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), both leaders on immigration in the House and Senate, stated that an employment verification system including a biometric identifier, such as fingerprints, is a key to any broad immigration bill. "Only by creating a biometric-based federal employment verification system will both employers and employees have the peace of mind that all employment relationships are both lawful and proper," said Schumer.

Currently an electronic employment verification system called, E-Verify, is used by the government determine the eligibility of workers in America for employers who chose to voluntarily use the system. The government recently announced that it will require federal contractors to use E-Verify.

Failure to Fix E-Verify Errors Raises Concern

Senator Russ Feingold (D-IL) expressed concern for the expansion of E-Verify without trying to fix the system. He cited reports showing that roughly 600,000 workers, mostly U.S. citizens, would be deemed ineligible under mandatory electronic employment verification. "Workers must be given a simple, straightforward means to appeal any data errors," said Feingold.

You can watch the hearing webcast by visiting the hearing webpage.

Social Security Administration Testifies on E-Verify's Impact

The current E-Verify system requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify that a newly hired employee's Social Security Number, name and date of birth match the SSA records. For employees claiming United States citizenship, SSA also confirms citizenship status. "The SSN card was never intended, and does not serve, as a personal identification document," said David Rust of the SSA in a House hearing on E-Verify last week.

In almost every situation, SSA must conduct a face-to-face interview if an employee contests a mismatch of their SSN or citizenship information, explained Rust. This is time SSA employees cannot use to assist applicants for a Social Security benefit, according to Rust.

To watch the hearing webcast and view witness statements, click here.

Mandatory E-Verify Affects Every Single Worker

A mandatory electronic employment verification system - and all the errors that come with it — does not just affect immigrants; it will apply to every single worker in this country — U.S. citizens and immigrants alike, emphasizes Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center (Immigration Impact).

"In most cases, employers aren't likely to wait out the red tape to re-verify a worker - employers will fire first and only the most well connected workers will be able to ask questions later. This will further jeopardize economic recovery by expanding job loss, undermining employer confidence and thrusting millions of hardworking, legal families into a web of uncertainty," said Anna Burger of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Learn more

A community survey of 400 immigrant workers conducted by the American Service Committee’s (AFSC) Arizona program reveals the impacts of mandatory E-Verify in Arizona: