E-Verify is a critical tool for employers who want to prevent hiring unauthorized workers. And yet, employers who voluntarily sign up for E-Verify often wonder what happens to the information that they provide to the E-Verify system, and whether their activities are subject to additional scrutiny because of their participation. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently provided a clear, if unsatisfying, answer: the information employers provide to these systems is being scrutinized now and USCIS plans to analyze this information even more closely in the future.
Although the new monitoring announced by USCIS is a reasonable cause for employer concern, employers should not let it deter them from joining E-Verify. Instead, the new scrutiny should provide an incentive for employers to consider all of the implications involved in joining E-Verify, and develop a basic E-Verify compliance system, which carefully considers the anti-discrimination laws, as well as I-9 procedures.
USCIS announced the enhanced monitoring in its recently published Systems of Records Notice (SORN), Privacy Act Exemption Notice, and a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for a new system to monitor E-Verify called the Compliance Tracking and Management System (CTMS). USCIS published these documents as required by law before the agency could start using the CTMS system. (USCIS is accepting comments on the SORN and Privacy Act Exemption Notice until June 22, 2009, and proposes to start using the system on June 22, 2009.)
Although the CTMS notices make for dry reading (probably, intentionally), information contained in privacy-related notices sometimes generate considerable interest because for the first time the public is seeing exactly how the government is collecting, storing, and using personal information. The most notorious example of privacy-related notices causing public concern involved U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s notices for the Automated Targeting System. In that case, the information contained in the notices sparked cries from around the blogsphere that the notices improperly expanded (but did not explain) the government’s efforts.
Similarly, the new CTMS notices should spark interest and comment from the more than 120,000 employers who voluntarily participate in the E-Verify system. Although USCIS’s increased compliance and monitoring should not come as a surprise, some employers may not have previously fully focused on the responsibilities that come with participation in E-Verify. The E-Verify memorandum of understanding and standard training module also do not provide adequate information or guidance to employers on what is required to ensure that there is no abuse, fraud or misuse of the program.
USCIS officials have indicated that that the intent of the new CTMS system is to assist employers and alert them of potential issues and misuse in a positive way. However, employers must be aware that information provided or gathered by USCIS may be shared with law enforcement agencies and could be used in a case against an employer. As such, the CTMS notices and PIA provide guidance and a roadmap for where USCIS is going in terms of E-Verify use and tracking, and how those changes will affect employers. E-Verify employers should take steps now to ensure that they are fully compliant with the system to avoid intrusive government oversight and costly mistakes.
For more detailed information about the CTMS notices, and specific best practices every E-Verify employer should know, please read my full article here.