WASHINGTON — The American Meat Institute is pushing Congress to pass legislation that would enhance and mandate the use of E-Verify as a tool to determine the eligibility of potential employees

"An employment verification program is like an immunization initiative: it only works effectively if implemented across the board," said J. Patrick Boyle, A.M.I. president, in a letter to Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Ranking Member John Cornyn (R-TX). "When applied in patchwork fashion as it has been, the system is vulnerable. We believe it is in the national interest — and in the interest of all employers — that this program become routine, not just a program used by a fraction of businesses."

E-Verify 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. However, the current system does not provide a fail-safe mechanism to detect identity theft when an imposter uses another person’s name and social security number.

The program is not able to determine if the person presenting a valid name and social security number is the person to whom the card belongs. As a result, law-abiding employers often end up hiring unauthorized workers even though they complied with the law, the letter states.

Congress must act to improve the E-Verify program and address the problems inherent with identity theft, A.M.I. urged. The number of documents that can be presented at the hiring point must be reduced and a biometric element must be incorporated into the program to enable employers to determine if documents presented relate to the individual presenting them.

A.M.I. also believes Congress should mandate E-Verify for employers, phasing in universal participation over several years to better enable the government to administer the program, and launching the biometric component directed at eliminating identity theft on a pilot voluntary basis.

In 1997, the meat industry became one of the earliest adopters of E-Verify when it was available only as a "pilot program" in several states. A.M.I. and its members have since worked 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., A.M.I. said.

Click here to read the letter.