A.M.I. to Obama: Enhance and mandate E-Verify

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – During an invitation-only meeting held yesterday to discuss the framework on comprehensive immigration reform in the 111th Congress, American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle emphasized the need to include a section enhancing and mandating E-Verify. Other attendees included business, labor, law enforcement and faith-based leaders, as well as President Obama, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other senior administration officials.

E-Verify, an electronic employment verification tool voluntarily used by some employers to determine the work eligibility of new hires, was adopted in 1997 by the meat industry when it was only available as a "pilot program" in a handful of states.

A.M.I. and its members convinced Congress to make E-Verify available on a voluntary basis to all employers in all states. Since becoming available, E-Verify has been embraced by the vast majority of meat companies in the U.S., Mr. Boyle said. The program allows employers to check online to help ensure through Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases that a newly hired person’s employment documents are valid.

But the current system fails to provide a fail-safe mechanism to detect identity theft when an imposter uses another person’s name and social security number. E-Verify cannot determine if the person presenting a valid name and social security number is the same person to whom the card belongs. As a result, law-abiding employers may often hire unauthorized workers even though they complied with the law.

Mr. Boyle urged the Obama Administration to support improvements to the E-Verify program and address the problems inherent with identity theft, such as determining whether the name and social security number being presented in one place of employment is simultaneously being used in different places of employment around the country.

He also recommended the number of documents that can be presented at the hiring point be reduced and that a biometric element be incorporated into the program on a voluntary pilot basis to enable employers to determine if documents presented relate to the individual presenting them.

Lastly, he iterated A.M.I.'s support for a mandatory E-Verify program, phasing in universal participation among businesses over several years to better enable the government to administer the program.

"A.M.I. has been a long-time supporter of E-Verify and our member companies are long-time users of the program," Mr. Boyle said during the White House meeting. "We believe it is in the interest of both employers and employees, as well as the government, that the program become more effective and accurate and eventually mandatory."

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