Group calls for biometric component to E-Verify program

Published 15 February 2011

The Security Industry Association (SIA) has called for the incorporation of biometrics into the E-Verify program to prevent fraud and increase accuracy; a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the E-Verify system was vulnerable to fraud and identity theft; a recent audit of Chipotle by ICE agents revealed that many employees are using forged documents to work in the United States; SIA recommends using biometrics to bind an individual to their identity documents, requiring biometric authentication of individuals when they apply for employments, and distributing smart cards to individuals that contain their biometric data; in 2009 nearly 8.2 million new employees were identified using the E-Verify system and this number is set to steadily grow as more states mandate employers to use the program for new hires; roughly 1,400 employers are joining the system each week

Biometrics can tie the individual to their documents // Source: csmonitor.com

As more states enroll in the E-Verify program, the Security Industry Association (SIA) has called for the incorporation of biometrics into the program to prevent fraud and increase accuracy.

Recent audits by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents of major employers like Chipotle have revealed that hundreds of workers are using forged documents to work in the United States, undermining the efficacy of these programs. Robert Horton, the chairman of SIA’s Biometric Employment Verification Working Group, says, “The Security Industry Association believes Congress can restore confidence in this program and our nation’s employee verification procedures by adopting a biometric component to the E-Verify program.”

SIA’s recommendations include using biometrics to bind an individual to their identity documents, requiring biometric authentication of individuals when they apply for employments, and distributing smart cards to individuals that contain their biometric data.

According to Horton, “SIA’s recommendation for an enhanced biometric document for use in vetting new employees will enhance privacy and reduce identity theft.”

The addition of biometrics in the E-Verify program comes on the heels of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found the E-Verify system to be vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.

The E-Verify program is an Internet based database that allows employers to check if a prospective employee is eligible to work in the United States.

In 2009 nearly 8.2 million new employees were identified using the E-Verify system and this number is set to steadily grow as more states mandate employers to use the program for new hires.

Arizona, Utah, South Carolina, and Mississippi already require all employers to use the system, while several states including Minnesota, Idaho, and Colorado have made it mandatory for state employers and contractors to use it.

According to the DHS website, roughly 1,400 employers are joining the system each week.

ICE agents are stepping up efforts to crack down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Agents are conducting “I-9 audits” where they pour through thousands of I-9 forms and other payroll documents to determine if the workers have entered the country legally.

If documents are found to be forged or missing, employers must fire the workers and are fined.

Employers complain that the process is unfair as the documents are often forged and they cannot pre-screen prospective employees.

Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, speaking after Chipotle was forced to fire hundreds of workers in Minnesota after an I-9 audit, said, “Immigration laws as they currently stand put employers in a very difficult position.”

He explained that employers cannot screen employees beforehand as those practices would be construed as discriminatory, and the sudden mass firings upset immigration advocates and the employees.

The inclusion of a biometric component to the E-Verify program could allay these concerns and prevent fraud.

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