July 2012, Volume 18, Number 3
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has 26 offices around the US and is stepping up I-9 audits, checking the forms completed by newly hired workers and their employers. Since Obama took office in January 2009, over 7,500 employers have undergone I-9 audits that resulted in ICE ordering employers to fire thousands of workers; ICE also levied $100 million in administrative fines. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that the increasing number of I-9 audits will "decimate our farms and farm-dependent jobs."
US Citizenship and Immigration Services operates the E-Verify system that allows employers to submit data on newly hired workers to check against government databases. USCIS normally issues employment-authorized confirmations in seconds, but in two percent of cases it issues tentative nonconfirmations while it checks records. In about 0.5 percent of cases, USCIS issues final nonconfirmations that the person is not authorized to work in the US. Employers must fire workers with final nonconfirmations or risk fines.
In spring 2012, 39 members of Congress wrote a letter to USCIS requesting the creation of an appeals process for workers who receive final nonconfirmations. They noted that there were 17.4 million E-Verify queries in FY11 and emphasized that even a small share of erroneous final nonconfirmations could keep up to 85,000 legal workers a year from being hired by employers using E-Verify.