U.S. to Let Workers Check Their Immigration Status Online

Prospective workers can begin checking online today for potentially inaccurate records about their U.S. immigration status, through a new program aimed at limiting bureaucratic mix-ups, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The program is an extension of E-Verify, an electronic system that almost 250,000 companies rely on to ensure that new employees aren’t in the U.S. illegally and thus ineligible to work, the department said.

E-Verify Self Check, initially available for people in a limited number of states, uses the personal information workers provide online to identify typographical errors and outdated information, such as name changes, in federal records that incorrectly flag a worker as illegal, the department said. Immigrant advocates and the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union have criticized E-Verify for using federal databases they say are full of inaccuracies.

Prospective employees using Self Check “can learn of any such problems ahead of time and clear them up,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in an interview.

New workers identified by E-Verify as potentially ineligible have eight business days to resolve the problem.

Today, residents of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Virginia and the District of Columbia will be able to use the service. The goal is to expand it nationwide in the next 12 months, according to the department.

A Million Annually

Immigration officials said they expect 850,000 to 1 million queries in the first year of the Internet service, growing to 8 million annually. The online service is at www.uscis.gov/everify.

Software services provided by San Diego-based Anakam Inc., a unit of Equifax Inc., validate the identity of Self Check users by examining demographic and financial data.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reduced the portion of those whose immigration status couldn’t be validated through E-Verify to 2.6 percent in 2009 from 8 percent between 2004 and 2007, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s auditing agency.

“It’s only getting more accurate with each passing day,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters today at a Washington press conference. She said the department has a process for people to challenge E-Verify results so that “no one who is eligible to work is prevented from doing so.”

Correcting Inaccuracies

The Obama administration and Republicans are increasingly supporting E-Verify as more database inaccuracies are corrected and some states begin requiring employers to use the program. Still, some Democrats said they are concerned E-Verify won’t solve the illegal immigration problem so much as make it less noticeable.

Expanding E-Verify “would actually encourage businesses and workers to enter the underground economy by working off the books,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, the senior Democrat on a House Judiciary immigration subcommittee, at a Feb. 10 hearing.

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