Eligible to Work? Experiments in Verifying Work Authorization
This report explores the successes and failures of various attempts to create an employment verification system that reliably establishes an employee’s eligibility to work since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. Through this analysis, the author evaluates the effectiveness and potential contributions of the current system and seeks to inform proposals for future initiatives.
According to the report, the Basic Pilot system, in which employers review and submit I-9 document information of all new employees for verification against government databases, was initially found to be effective in curbing unauthorized employment, although the precise degree to which it achieved this end could not be ascertained. As the program stands today, the report identifies three major problems: high tentative nonconfirmation rates for legitimate foreign-born workers, marginal employer compliance, and unattractiveness to employers. Additional issues include concerns that employer discrimination may occur as a result of tentative nonconfirmations and the system’s vulnerability to identity fraud.
The report also finds that the Basic Pilot will likely only achieve its mandate of reducing unauthorized employment if it becomes a mandatory program for all employers in the country. So long as the Basic Pilot program remains voluntary, unauthorized workers who are unable to find work through a participating employer can simply seek employment with a non-participating employer. However, given the uncertainties which still remain in the program’s functionality, the report recommends a re-assessment of the program’s strengths and weaknesses before expansion is contemplated.