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E-Verify as a check on work eligibility: not ready for prime time?

In an electronically-oriented world, there are more and more words or concepts that begin with the letter “e.” E-mail is one. E-commerce is another. And, in the context of immigration law, there is the E-Verify program for determining work eligibility based on immigration status.

E-Verify is a national database. But a number of Minnesota employers have already expressed concern about the impact in Minnesota of a proposal in Congress to require employers to use the database. They say the system too often wrongfully identifies legal workers as illegal. And it is an administrative burden for small business.

Those small businesses include many Minnesota farms that hire immigrant workers.

Sen. Al Franken says he’s concerned about E-Verify as well. The senator asserted that the system was not “ready for prime time.” Given his previous involvement with Saturday Night Live, which famously featured the Not Ready for Primetime Players, it is perhaps not surprising that Sen. Franken should choose that phrase.

The concerns about e-Verify are not only that it is sometimes inaccurate. Also of concern is the administrative burden of E-Verify for small businesses. Larger businesses with formal HR departments can assign HR specialists to take of clearing up E-Verify errors.

But when the task of doing that falls on a small business, the burden is not so easily shifted. After all, a small business employee or owner is already probably playing many different roles already.

Sen. Franken is therefore examining weights to keep small businesses from being overwhelmed with E-Verify reporting requirements. What could happen, for example, is some sort of exception for small businesses. It would depend on the rate of false identifications of people as being ineligible for work in the U.S.

Source: “Minnesota employers call E-Verify system unreliable,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4-25-13

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