Today former INS Commissioner Doris Meissner emphatically endorsed E-Verify in a report from the Migration Policy Institute, Taking Stock and Correcting Course, coming as Sen. Sessions (R-AL) failed to get an E-Verify reauthorization amendment into the Senate "stimulus" package yesterday. But the House version of the stimulus does contain a four-year reauthorization (as well as a requirement that employers receiving funds from the measure use E-Verify in hiring), so it remains uncertain whether E-Verify will be reauthorized via this stimulus. (E-Verify is due to sunset in March 2009).
Meissner's support is important, and has credibility that warrants attention. If anyone understands the pressures on employers to comply with immigration law under the old, cumbersome, paper-heavy, expensive and inaccurate I-9 process, it's Meissner, who oversaw the deployment of the Basic Pilot Program, E-Verify's predecessor. She has always seen the core of the illegal immigration problem as the easy availability of jobs and helped set up the Basic Pilot in the 1990s with the technology available at the time.
Put it this way: before 9/11, immigration was about economic security (not national security). The mandate Meissner was given was to deal with unauthorized workers crossing our borders and getting jobs -- illegally -- in the United States. She did the best she could with the Basic Pilot. But E-Verify is such a distinct leap ahead, with currently over 1,000 employers voluntarily signing up per week and 96.1 percent of workers verified within seconds of an electronic query (and perhaps one out of eight new hires nationwide already being screened), it's hard to deny the value of this program. E-Verify is such a win-win for employers, American workers, and federal law compliance that Meissner was nothing short of emphatic in her endorsement, calling for E-Verify reauthorization and expansion of the program voluntarily, while holding out that once the program's remaining small kinks are straightened out, the program may be worthy of becoming mandatory. More specifically, she calls E-Verify "a valuable tool for employers who are trying to comply with the law." This is what she said:
Mandatory employer verification must be at the center of legislation to combat illegal immigration. Until such legislation is enacted, the administration should support reauthorization of the E-Verify employment verification system and expand its use as a voluntary program, allowing for its steady improvement in moving to scale as a mandatory program. Attention should now be focused on continued improvement in the accuracy rates of the DHS and SSA databases, development of a secure system of identification, and improved rates of employer compliance with program rules. Also, the administration should analyze whether or not E-Verify ultimately offers the best platform for mandatory verification.
For more information on how E-Verify works and how well it is working, see my September 2008 report, .