U.S. Adds Photo Verification, Sues Illinois on Verification Ban; Towns Rethink Anti-Illegal Laws
In late September, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-Verify (formerly Basic Pilot) work authorization verification system added access to photographs. The photo tool will be available when a new employee presents an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Permanent Resident Card (green card) to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9). It allows an employer to compare identical photos: the individual’s photograph on the EAD or green card against the image stored in USCIS’s databases. The tool is intended to help an employer determine whether the document presented “reasonably relates to the individual presenting it” and contains a valid photo. Employers currently participating in E-Verify will be trained on the system enhancement through a mandatory refresher tutorial that launched automatically on September 17, 2007. New employers who registered after that date are learning how to use the photo tool through an updated E-Verify manual, tutorial, and memorandum of understanding.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has sued Illinois to block a state law, to take effect January 1, 2008, that would prevent employers from using a federal database to check the work authorization of prospective employees under the E-Verify program. In a signal that the move is part of a nationwide effort, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said, “We will vigorously contest any effort to impede our enforcement measures.” A spokesperson for Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich said he signed the bill because of concerns about delays in responding to employer inquiries and a reported 50 percent accuracy rate. More than 23,000 employers are enrolled in the system, and 2.9 million employer inquiries were handled in the most recent fiscal year.
Also, a handful of towns and cities around the nation have begun reexamining their newly passed anti-illegal immigration laws. Riverside, New Jersey, previously enacted a law to penalize anyone who employed or rented to an undocumented person. Many mostly Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking immigrants fled the town, and the local economy began to suffer. Shops and restaurants that had immigrant employees and customers began to shut down and storefronts were boarded up. The town also had mounting legal bills resulting from challenges to the law that delayed other high-priority projects. In September, Riverside rescinded the law. “I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Riverside’s current Mayor George Conard, who had been in favor of the original legislation. According to reports, it is unclear whether those who left will return any time soon.
Employers can register online for E-Verify here.