MCLU Warns Workers Could Lose Their Jobs

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
September 8, 2009 12:00 am

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Mandatory E-Verify Rolls Out Today


American workers may lose their jobs because the government hasn’t taken the time to fix the E-verify system. The E-verify system becomes mandatory for federal contractors today.

“In a free society, we shouldn’t need a permission slip from the government to earn a living,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “This system entangles businesses and workers alike in a bureaucratic nightmare.”

Beginning September 8th, 2009, all employers with federal contracts lasting longer than 120 days or for amounts greater than $100,000 will be required to check all current and future employees against E-Verify, a flawed federal database rife with errors. E-Verify combines files from the Social Security Administration and immigration files from the Department of Homeland Security. Employers using E-Verify enter worker information into the internet system that, in theory, informs the employer whether the worker is authorized for employment in the United States. Given federal agencies’ history of security breaches and the extraordinary amount of errors in the database, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Associated Builders and Contractors oppose the system.

“It’s wrong for the government to roll out a mandatory system that doesn’t work,” said Bellows. “You shouldn’t be in danger of losing your job because of a government typo.”

The Social Security Administration itself estimates that if E-Verify were to become mandatory and the database were not improved, errors from the Social Security Administration alone could result in 3.6 million workers each year being misidentified as not authorized for employment.[1] By mandating participation in E-Verify, the rule effectively requires employees of federal contractors to get a permission slip to work. The database increases the likelihood of not being hired or worse yet, being fired, when an eligible worker’s information is not properly stored in the database. Currently there is no recourse for a citizen or legal resident that is improperly identified as ineligible to work.

“Requiring the use of E-Verify for employers with federal contracts will mean that US citizen and legal resident workers in Maine will lose their jobs due to errors in the E-Verify database, causing huge hardship for the employers and the employees alike,” said Beth Stickney, Executive Director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project. “At a time when our government should be doing everything it can to keep people employed, making E-Verify mandatory for any employer is a mistake.”

The September 8th start date for federal contracts stems from the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council final rule that amends the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). After Bush Executive Order 13465, all executive departments and agencies must include in contracts a provision requiring use of “an electronic employment eligibility verification system”, or E-Verify for short. According to the rule, in the initial fiscal year approximately 168,624 contractors and subcontractors and 3.8 million workers will be affected.

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