WASHINGTON – E-Verify, the Internet-based system designed to confirm the eligibility of job applicants, may be detecting only one out of two illegal workers whose employment authorizations are screened, according to consultants in a recent Wall Street Journal news story. 

Currently many thousands of companies participate in E-Verify on a voluntarily basis or as a requirement to do business with the U.S. government.

According to an evaluation of E-Verify on behalf of D.H.S. conducted by Rockville, Md.-based Westat, a research group, the program couldn't confirm if information workers were providing was their own. Thus, "many unauthorized workers obtain employment by committing identity fraud that cannot be detected by E-Verify," Westat told the department. Westat put the "inaccuracy rate for unauthorized workers" at about 54%.

A spokesman from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a D.H.S. unit, however, said the department is already working on program improvements, including adding more databases and a photo-screening tool, plus creating a monitoring and compliance branch to detect identity fraud.

He added the Westat report showed E-Verify's accuracy is improving, with most cases automatically found to be work-authorized. For example, he said E-Verify accurately screened 96% of workers, correctly identifying 93.1% of cases as people allowed to work in the U.S. and 2.9% as unauthorized, the evaluation determined. Some 3.3% of cases were illegal workers mistaken for legal workers, and 0.7% were individuals who could work in the U.S. but were not initially identified that way.

It is a well-known fact that E-Verify cannot document identity theft, National Meat Association spokesman Jeremy Russell told MEATPOULTRY.com. “Many N.M.A. members have used the system for years and what they’ve learned is that E-Verify effectively confirms the legitimacy of documents and is a tool to eliminate forgery,” he added. “However, it does not address legitimate documents that have been stolen.

“To assure compliance with immigration statutes, companies have to go beyond E-Verify. This is why N.M.A. helped develop best practices for workplace compliance,” he concluded.

“Although E-Verify is not foolproof and doesn't address identity theft, it is an important proactive tool for employers to use in their hiring practices,” added Barry Carpenter, N.M.A. chief executive officer. “Coupled with the other hiring practices recommended by N.M.A., E-Verify can be an effective way of assuring the hiring of a legal workforce and will put an employer in a better position in the event of an action by I.C.E [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.]”