WASHINGTON – The US meat and poultry industry supports modifications and a phased-in mandate of E-Verify, wrote J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute, in submitted testimony to the US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. The committee recently held a hearing about the Social Security Administration's role in verifying employment eligibility.

But Boyle said several changes can be made to the current E-Verify system to improve the accuracy of results and lessen the burden on employers and employees. First, employers must be given the tools to determine employee work eligibility.

“To combat true-identity theft, SSA and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] must be required to inform employers if an employee’s name and Social Security number are not only legitimate but – whether they are being used in multiple places of employment by persons who have stolen the identity of others,” Boyle wrote.

The number of documents currently allowed for submission to determine work eligibility must be reduced to avoid confusion and document fraud, he added.

“Ideally, a unitary card or only several cards that can be used to establish employment authorization and identity are desirable,” Boyle said. “The verification system also should utilize or be required to move toward usage of biometric technology that can detect whether the person presenting a document that relates to a real person with a valid Social Security number or alien registration card is in fact the person to whom the card relates.”

Users of the E-Verify system must be given the tools to determine in real time or near real time the legal status of a prospective employee or applicant to work to lessen the burden on employers and employees, Boyle said. DHS and the SSA must also be given the resources to ensure work authorization status changes are current and avoid the costs and disruption that stems from employers having to employ, train and pay an applicant prior to receiving final confirmation regarding the applicant’s legal status.

Boyle said employers that comply with electronic employment eligibility verification requirements must be provided protection from discrimination lawsuits resultant from such compliance, in order to protect employers and encourage participation in the system. He urged Congress to mandate E-Verify for employers once these changes are addressed, phasing in universal participation over several years to better enable the government to administer the program, and launch a pilot biometric component directed at eliminating identity theft on a voluntary, fee-for-service basis. He also urged that mandatory federal E-Verify legislation preempt state and local laws. There should be one, clear-cut standard of compliance.

“A practical and functional worksite electronic employment verification system is vital to achieving a stable, legal workforce and necessary to secure our nation’s borders. The meat and poultry industry strongly supports your efforts to develop such a system,” he concluded.