More companies use DHS immigration database

Published 6 June 2009

DHS says that more than 118,000 public, private, and government employers enrolled in its E-Verify database as of 1 May; enrollment is growing, but E-Verify still is used by less than 2 percent of the nation’s more than 7.4 million employers

More and more U.S. companies and organizations use the federal government’s E-Verify program to check if their employees are authorized to work in the United States legally. A DHS database of the more than 118,000 public, private, and government employers enrolled in E-Verify as of 1 May shows companies big (Tyson Foods) and small (the Ballard Street Café in Wylie) are signed up for the program.

Houston Chronicle’s Susan Carroll writes that enrollment has grown exponentially in recent years, with about 1,000 employers signing up each week for the free Web-based program, according to DHS statistics. More than 6,100 Texas employers have enrolled as of 1 May, including at least 60 city, county and state agencies.

The city of Houston and Harris County, Texas, are not among them. Lakewood Church and the Houston Rockets, however, use E-Verify. “Why not do it?” asked Gerry Boren, the city manager of Gun Barrel City, population about 6,100, which sits on Cedar Creek Lake southeast of Dallas. The city started using the system in May, and so far has verified the work authorization of a police officer and two public works employees, he said.

Critics say there are good reasons not to use the program, which has been around for more than a decade. Some big business groups have opposed efforts to compel participation in the program, arguing it can be burdensome, particularly for small employers.

Immigrant advocates have criticized E-Verify for incorrectly flagging people authorized to work in the U.S., including naturalized U.S. citizens. “E-Verify is not a magic bullet that’s going to resolve all of our immigration problems,” said Michele Waslin, senior policy analyst at the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, D.C.“And it actually can be quite harmful to people who are here legally.”

DHS insist the system’s performance has improved significantly in recent years, and said they remain committed to pushing ahead with plans to require federal contractors to use the program starting by the end of June. The agency reported that 96 percent of cases submitted to the system resulted in confirmations within 24 hours during the third quarter of 2008. In the remaining 4 percent, the system found a discrepancy in a new employee’s paperwork that needed to be resolved.

Growing enrollment
At the federal level, participation in E-Verify is voluntary for businesses. At least nine states now require that state contractors or state agencies use the system. Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina passed more stringent laws