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Keep your personnel clean with E-Verify

October 11, 2010
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Remember when the fax machine came out? How about e-mail? How about the in-bay automatic carwash?

At first, people were reluctant to accept this technology. There were cries that it would ruin businesses, destroy cars, and just flat-out wouldn’t work. However, there were also a few pioneers that embraced these new tools. These intrepid adventurers looked beyond the hype and saw the value that could be delivered by becoming “early adopters.”

Change is hard. It’s even harder if you’re running a business. You don’t have the time, resources, and money to jump on every train coming through touting a new and improved way of doing things. I should know … like you, I’m also running a business, and my time is precious. But there is one piece of technology that I wholeheartedly support and want you to start using. It’s called E-Verify, and it’s a free government service designed to validate your employees’ legal status.

In the news
Earlier this year, Car Care, Inc., a subsidiary of Mace Securities, Inc., was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and to forfeit $500,000 to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following a 2006 investigation. (At one time, Mace, a manufacturer of security and personal defense products, was one of the largest carwash chains in the nation.) Car Care, Inc., based in the Northeast, had employees on the payroll that were using false identification cards to show legal status to work. $600,000. On top of that, five managers are awaiting criminal actions against them, personally.

As an employer, are you also supposed to be a fake ID detection expert? The U.S. government seems to think so. However, if you make a good faith attempt with an employee and their documentation, and run them through the E-Verify system and get a confirmation letter; you have passed the onus from you to the U.S. government.

A convert’s point of view
I’ll be the first one to tell you that I am dubious of many government programs. Ten years ago when E-Verify first appeared (it was called Basic Pilot back then), I was skeptical. I didn’t really see the point of this process when the tried-and-true method of filling out I-9s was working just fine.

Then comes increased immigration enforcement, ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and suddenly employers are finding themselves in court and paying heavy fines for having an employee on staff that wasn’t legally authorized to work there. Some employers are even facing criminal charges … and this is just the beginning. I don’t need to tell you, that in today’s political climate, punishment against employers who hire an unauthorized worker will only get worse.

So how can you protect yourself?
Answer: E-Verify.
E-Verify is an easy-to-use system in which you enter in the information that you gather from an I-9 into an online database. In 5 seconds you get an answer that verifies if the employee is legally authorized to work in the United States. Best of all, this service is absolutely free to use. You only need to process your new employees through E-Verify. Existing employees are exempt.

Who is using E-Verify?
For most companies, E-Verify is optional to use. Currently, there are close to 70,000 employers using the service today, with over 2.5 million verification queries submitted annually. If you are a Federal contractor or sub-contractor, you are required by law to process all new hires through E-Verify. In addition, some states like Arizona, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have passed laws making E-Verify mandatory.

How does E-Verify protect me?
You don’t need to look very hard to find a news headline about an ICE raid at a company. ICE routinely patrols and audits companies to ensure compliance with hiring laws.

If you have run your new hires through the E-Verify system, you have created a very strong defense for yourself should ICE come knocking at your door. The Federal Government states that, “An employer who verifies work authorization under E-Verify has established a rebuttable presumption that it has not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien.”

For an extra 10 seconds of your time with a new hire, you have dramatically increased your level of compliance and security in regards to employment laws. If you aren’t using E-Verify, and insist on collecting the information given to you with the I-9, your fate rests in whether your examination of the documents represented was reasonably sufficient. It’s a big risk — and it’s your word alone against the ICE.

You’re only as good as the company you keep
Let’s face it — there are certain industries that ICE seems to like to target for raids: The carwash industry is high on their list of “low hanging fruits,” or easy targets. The leaders in these suspect industries that are using E-Verify are enjoying great success in staying off of the radar. ICE knows which companies are using the system and which are not — and they target those who are not using E-Verify.

Why? Because it’s easier for them, plain and simple. If you’re not using E-Verify, you will have a much tougher time proving that you acted, in good faith, to not hire an unauthorized worker. As a matter of fact, 100 percent of the major ICE raids involved a company that was not on the E-Verify system. At the end of the day, when the wheat is being separated from the chaff, where do you want to stand?

It’s good PR to use E-Verify
The American public is growing increasingly concerned with the state of unauthorized workers and foreign nationals in the U.S. There are arguments of jobs being taken away, benefits squandered, and taxes rising. People are looking at how companies hire employees. You can send a clear message that you are being socially responsible by using E-Verify to validate your workforce.

How do I get started?
It’s simple. Go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and search for E-Verify. Their website is: Alternatively, you can also run a Google search on E-Verify and go from there. The registration process is fast and easy with each step carefully explained.

Once you’re in the system, you will enter in information for new hires only that is found on the I-9 form; information like the Social Security number, date of birth, etc. Once entered, the information is checked by the system and you get a response in seconds. ninety-five percent of entries are verified immediately.

A small percent come back as a “tentative non-confirmation.” This means something didn’t match up quite right. Very often these are a result of a typo or a misspelling, and the employee has the chance to get the issue resolved.

Another small percentage comes back as denied outright. These are the unauthorized workers, which if you continue to keep on your payroll, can cause you a lot of grief if you get audited by the ICE.

Change CAN be good
Remember the fax machine and email mentioned at the beginning of this article? Eventually all businesses embrace the technology … and you know what? Everyone turned out to be a winner. Time was saved, money was earned, people were happy.

E-Verify is no different. It’s the kind of service that, after you have implemented it, you’ll ask yourself, “Why wasn’t I doing this before?” Well, that time is now. The benefits are plain and they are strong. The rest … is up to you.

Jacob M. Monty, monty@montypartners .com, is the founding partner of the Monty Partners, LLP law firm, which helps companies ensure compliance with the law in regards to labor, employment, and immigration. He can be reached at 1.866.427.0152.