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Administration backs federal E-Verify rule

July 08 2009

The Obama Administration supports a rule requiring federal contractors to use the E-Verify system to check employees, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security announced today. The government also announced plans to rescind a proposed Social Security "no-match" rule.

The E-Verify rule for federal contractors is set to take effect Sept 8.

"Requiring those who seed federal contracts to use this system will create a more reliable and legal workforce," Napolitano said.

E-Verify is a federally operated Web-based service for employers that checks information from I-9 forms against Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases to verify if a worker is legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Then-President George Bush first issued an executive order in June 2008 requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify. The Society for Human Resource Management and other organizations sued to stop it, arguing a mandate to use of E-Verify must come from Congress and that it could expose employers to more lawsuits from workers who feel they were discriminated against on the basis of race or national origin.

Some states require employers to E-Verify, including Arizona where Napolitano formerly served as governor and signed legislation mandating E-Verify.

Napolitano also said work will continue on improving E-Verify.

On average, 1,000 employers use E-Verify each week with more than 134,000 employers on board, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Also today, Napolitano said the government plans to rescind the Social Security no-match rule.

The rule, proposed in 2007, was blocked by a court and never took effect.

It would require employers to take a series of steps if the Social Security Administration notifies them of workers whose Social Security numbers don't match their names. The steps could include firing workers who can't resolve the match within 90 days. If employers didn't take action, the Department of Homeland Security would consider them to have knowledge that they hired illegal workers if they are later discovered in an on-site investigation.

Opponents argued the rule relies on an error-prone Social Security Administration database and would result in legal workers being fired and discrimination against those who look or sound foreign. Several organizations sued to stop the rule, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.

Social Security numbers that don't match may be the result of a clerical error or name change, but they might also be the result of incorrect numbers given by undocumented workers.

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