|For Immediate Release
February 10, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement
Hearing on the E-Verify - Preserving Jobs for American Workers
Chairman Smith: With unemployment over 9% now for 21 months, jobs are scarce and families are worried. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, seven million people are working in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers.
One effective program to help ensure jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers is E-Verify. It’s an electronic employment eligibility verification system, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in conjunction with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Through E-Verify, the Social Security numbers and alien identification numbers of new hires are checked against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases in order to help employers determine who is eligible to work in the U.S.
I’ve used the program, frankly repeatedly, to ensure that my staff members are eligible to work in the U.S., as all Members of Congress are required to do. It’s free, quick and easy to use.
I am aware of criticisms of E-Verify – some legitimate and most not. But the fact remains that E-Verify is a very effective tool for employers who want to hire legal workers.
Perhaps the most valid criticism of E-Verify is the identity theft loophole. Specifically, if an employee provides an employer with a stolen Social Security Number and matching identification information, E-Verify will determine that the Social Security number is one that is work eligible.
USCIS has taken steps to help close the ID theft loophole. For instance, they have instituted the photo matching tool. This allows an employer to view a picture of the employee – from a greencard, an employment authorization document or a passport – to determine that the employee is in fact the person to whom that Social Security number or alien identification number was issued.
I am interested in hearing what USCIS has to say today about further improvements for the identity theft loophole and expansion of the photo match tool. Also it is critical that DHS and SSA work together to investigate any suspicious overuse of Social Security numbers through E-Verify.
One issue regarding the identity theft loophole, that I hope Ms. Bertucci will address, was noted by a 2009 Westat study on E-Verify.
The study stated that 3.3% of all E-Verify queries are for unauthorized workers and just over half (54%) of those are actually found to be work authorized. This 54% is often cited by opponents of the program.
However, it’s important that Westat says they estimated this percentage based on their assumptions of the number of illegal immigrants in the workforce. It was not based on the discovery of any illegal immigrant individuals actually in the workforce. So I would caution against using the number.
Studies by Westat and USCIS show that E-Verify’s work eligibility confirmation rates continue to improve as the system is upgraded. Last year’s USCIS data shows that 98.3% of employees were confirmed as work authorized instantly or within 24 hours. And a 2009 Westat report found that those eligible to work are immediately confirmed 99.5% of the time.
Nearly 250,000 businesses now use E-Verify. And over 1,300 more sign up for it each week.
I supported the previous Administration’s attempts to increase the number of employers using E-Verify and they did so through voluntary outreach to businesses. But they also did so by mandating certain federal contractors and others use E-Verify.
Today I hope to hear how the current Administration plans to expand on those requirements. With 26 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, expanding E-Verify would help to open up jobs they need.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.