DHS Secretary Napolitano Testifies on E-Verify, Enforcement Efforts
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano testified (written testimony PDF) at an oversight hearing on October 26, 2011, before the House Judiciary Committee on worksite enforcement and the E-Verify program, among other issues. She noted that since fiscal year (FY) 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has audited more than 6,000 employers suspected of hiring unauthorized workers, debarred 441 companies and individuals from receiving federal contracts, and imposed more than $76 million in financial sanctions, which she said was more than the total number of audits and debarments conducted during the entire previous administration. In FY 2011, ICE also criminally arrested 221 employers accused of violations related to employment, which Secretary Napolitano noted was “an agency record.”
As of FY 2011, she noted, more than 292,000 employers have enrolled in E-Verify, representing more than 898,000 locations. More than 1,000 new employers enroll each week, and the number of employers enrolled in E-Verify has more than doubled each fiscal year since 2007. In FY 2011 alone, E-Verify processed 17.4 million employment queries, she said.
To improve E-Verify’s accuracy, USCIS reduced mismatches for naturalized and derivative U.S. citizens by adding naturalization data and U.S. passport data to E-Verify, Secretary Napolitano said. Because of this enhancement, in FY 2011, “more than 80,000 queries that previously would have received an initial mismatch requiring correction at the secondary verification stage were automatically verified as work-authorized,” she said. USCIS also has added 80 staff positions to support monitoring and compliance since the beginning of FY 2010. Also, to counter identity theft, USCIS now allows for the verification of passport photos through the E-Verify system.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex). said it was true that DHS has increased the number of audits of companies’ employment eligibility verification forms. However, he said, “these audits are of questionable benefit,” citing a U.S. Government Accountability Office report stating that ICE officials have said that fine amounts are so low that they are not a meaningful deterrent and “employers view the fines as a cost of doing business, making the fines an ineffective deterrent.” He called for more worksite enforcement actions, stating that when ICE does not arrest undocumented workers, “[t]hey go down the street and knock on the door of the next employer, and take jobs away from American workers.”