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MPI Report Proposes Fixes and Alternatives for Next-Generation E-Verify to Meet Crucial Test of Getting Employment Verification Right

Press Release
Monday, July 20, 2009

MPI Report Proposes Fixes and Alternatives for Next-Generation E-Verify to Meet Crucial Test of Getting Employment Verification Right

WASHINGTON — The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today released a report that examines the strengths and weaknesses of E-Verify and urges Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to strengthen the electronic employment verification system while also testing alternatives for a next-generation E-Verify.

The report, The Next Generation of E-Verify: Getting Employment Verification Right, urges immediate steps to strengthen the existing E-Verify, and in the context of expected mandatory electronic employment verification and comprehensive immigration reform urges the testing of several new voluntary pilots for a next-generation E-Verify system.

"Effective employment verification must be at the heart of comprehensive immigration reform legislation if new policies are to succeed in preventing future illegal immigration," said report co-author and MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner, who directs MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program.

Said report co-author Marc Rosenblum, an MPI Senior Policy Analyst: "While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has greatly improved E-Verify and reduced the program's error rates, the system most crucially still cannot detect identity fraud. And E-Verify requires enhanced due-process protections, compliance and auditing for misuse and identity fraud, stronger employer oversight and real enforcement of worker protections."

The report outlines three alternatives for a next-generation E-Verify, recommending that Congress approve pilot testing on a voluntary basis of systems based on secure documents, PIN pre-verification and biometric scanning.

"Each of these approaches has strong advantages and disadvantages, which is why we are recommending that they be field-tested alongside the current system to determine the best approach for the next generation of E-Verify," Rosenblum said.

The current E-Verify model places employers at the center of the identity authentication process, which has resulted in difficulties for employers and workers alike. The proposed pilot programs would move from an employer-centric to a more employer-neutral model, streamlining the steps employers are required to take to confirm work authorization for new hires; reducing incentives and potential for identity fraud; and removing the guesswork in authenticating the identities of new hires.

"By testing new approaches now rather than locking in a single system, Congress can take advantage of the experience and new technologies that will allow E-Verify to best accomplish its vital immigration policy mission," said Meissner, who as Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service oversaw the implementation of Basic Pilot, which was subsequently renamed E-Verify. "Rushing to expand a flawed system could lead to a repeat of the mistakes of the past, and threaten the longer-term success of broader immigration policy reforms."

The full report is available here.

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The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.