The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm their eligibility to work in the United States.
Developed by the Bush administration, the mandatory use of E-Verify, a computer system for employers to check their workers against the Social Security database, is another example of the Obama administration’s emphasis on enforcing the immigration laws to keep illegal immigrants from living and working in the United States. However, the administration has yet to press for a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would legalize some of the immigrants already living and working here.
Many experts and government officials expect the E-Verify system to eventually become mandatory for private employers as well, though critics say it relies on flawed databases that may wrongly disqualify employees who are legally authorized to work in the United States. A 2007 study by a research organization hired by the Department of Homeland Security found that E-Verify’s error rate for foreign-born U.S. citizens was almost 10 percent. It also found that employers often terminated or refused to hire workers whose information was initially unconfirmed by the E-Verify system, rather than allow the employee or applicant to try to fix the problem.
About 169,000 federal contractors and subcontractors are expected to be covered by the mandate that begins today.