Nancy Berryhill, an Acting Commissioner of Social Security, recently testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Social Security on the widespread use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) beyond their intended function. Most of her testimony concerned the history of SSNs, past security procedures, and proposed future ones. In a bizarre sentence that contradicts much of the rest of her testimony, Berryhill stated that, “Mandatory use of E-Verify by employers would help reduce the incidence of fraudulent use of SSNs.” That is exactly backward. Mandatory E-Verify will greatly expand the fraudulent use of SSNs.
E-Verify is an electronic employment eligibility verification system run by the federal government that is supposed to check the identity information of new hires against government databases to verify that they are legally eligible to work. Congress created E-Verify to deny employment to illegal immigrants and reduce the incentive for them to come and remain in the United States. E-Verify is not yet mandated nationwide but several states have mandated its use, to various degrees, and many large employers currently use it.
E-Verify builds on the current rudimentary employment verification known as the I-9 form that every new employee must fill out thanks to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). An E-Verify mandate would add another layer on top of the I-9 whereby employers, after collecting I-9 forms, would enter the information on them into a government website. The E-Verify system then compares that I-9 information with information held in the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. The employee is work authorized if the databases decide that the information is valid. A flag raised by either database returns a “tentative non-confirmation,” requiring the employee and employer to sort out whatever error has been flagged. If the employee and employer cannot sort out the errors then the employer must terminate the new employee through a “final non-confirmation.” The I-9 form and E-Verify have serious problems, including the encouragement of rampant identity theft, but those problems would only grow with an E-Verify mandate.