Immigrant Work Status Verification

Table Of Contents

Design of Web Based Verification System
Fraud Protection
Error Correction

Page maintained by Steven Greenberg, last modified on Wednesday, 16-Dec-2020 14:11:09 MST

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The meat of these ideas were first posted on 19-May-2006.

If there were a fraud proof way for an employer to verify the work status of a potential immigrant hire, then we could hold employers responsible for only hiring legal immigrants. There could be stiff penalties on the employer for hiring illegal immigrants.

Apparently the U.S. Government has thought of this idea, but they have bungled the design of the system that they are now testing. The system being tested is based on the employer connecting to a web page and seeking verification of a potential hire. The reports that I have read say that the system being tested is not accurate because of hard to spell or pronounce foreign names.

Below is a list of references to the current situation. I could not find a link to the report that name spelling is a problem.

  • Written Statement of Tyler Moran Policy Analyst, National Immigration Law Center to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Employment Verification Systems in Comprehensive Immigration Reform October 18, 2005
  • FOXNEWS.COM Computerized System Would Keep Tabs on Immigrant Status
  • Senators to seek limited verification of immigrant status
  • Employment Eligibility Verification Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Verification of Foreigner Immigration Status In Singapore
  • House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Electronic Employment Verification Systems: Needed Safeguards to Protect Privacy and Prevent Misuse (June 10, 2008)
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office - Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System (June 10, 2008)
  • On 20-June-2007 BuzzFlash posted an article The Illegal Employer Problem (from Thom Hartmann's book Screwed). This coincides with the ideas that I am presenting. Moreover, it gives a whole new perspective on what used to be called the "Illegal Immigration Problem".

    If you think of the consequences of prosecuting the people who employ ineligible workers rather than prosecuting the ineligible workers, the whole tone of the debate changes.

    It no longer becomes a wedge issue where eligible workers and ineligible workers are competing for the attention of progressive politicians. When this happens, the employer's role in this gets forgotten.

    Instead, eligible workers and progressive politicians could unite to solve the employer problem. If anything, it becomes a wedge issue between all the workers and the conservative politicians.

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    Design of Web Based Verification System

    The system would be an open, web based application. No passwords would be needed for a person to verify their own documents. If valid paperwork fails to get verified by the system, then it would behoove the eligible worker to get the problem straightened out with the issuer of the valid paperwork.

    For employers, it would be useful to force them to identify themselves. Employer identification discourages fraud on the employer's part.

    The system should have the employer type in the number and name from the Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) or Employment Authorization Card. The system will then say "verified" or "not verified" (perhaps "not verified, call the following phone number: ..." would be better.)

    The system will present no other information in order to protect privacy. To deter fraud, the system will not say why the status cannot be verified. This will prevent someone from gathering enough information from the system itself to make forged documents with either a random identification number or someone else's identification number.

    If the answer is "verified", the system will supply a transaction number that the employer must record for later, possible inspection by the government enforcement agency if the employer hires the worker. This makes it easier to construct a strong legal case against fraud by employers.

    The employer must identify itself when making the inquiry so that the system can keep track of inquiries. The system needs to keep track of the inquiries that are made for each worker. If the number is excessive, or times and locations of employers seem impossible, then forgery is to be suspected. Then the system will no longer respond with "verified" but will respond with "not verified, call the following phone number: ...."

    This design eliminates the problem of hard to spell or pronounce foreign names that is killing the current system being tested. The employer need only type the number and name that is on the immigrant's document. It makes no difference if the name on the document is spelled correctly, it only needs to match the spelling in the government's database. If the name does not match, then the document is a forgery and will not be verified. If the immigrant manages to obtain a forged document with a matching name and number, the methods of analyzing inquiries that I described above will catch it.

    Presenting forged work papers to a potential employer brings the ineligible worker to the attention of the government enforcement agency. Once ineligible workers realize this, the whole business of forged papers could disappear almost overnight. If ineligible workers cannot get jobs, the incentive for them to illegally come to this country also disappears almost overnight.

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    Fraud Protection

    If identity theft or any other means were used to create fraudulent papers for the ineligible worker, then the records kept by the verification system make it possible to detect. For cases where an identity is used fraudulently a small number of times, then it probably is not worthwhile to detect it and prosecute it. Identity theft in this case does no harm to the person whose identity has been stolen. The system would only need to flag unusually large-scale use of an identity that warrants investigation of the phony users of the identity.

    The first line of defense for the system is to refuse to verify identities that appear to be stolen. If the real person cannot get verified by the web based system, it is a simple matter for the real person to contact the INS to get the matter straightened out. If a phony person is refused verification, then they do not dare contact the INS personally about the problem.

    Moreoever, merely using fraudulent papers even unsuccessfully risks bringing the INS to your door. When the INS has detected that an ID is being used fraudulently by a sufficient number of people, the web system can appear to be normally verifying the employee while advising the INS to go to the site of employment and arrest the ineligible worker.

    If forged papers started working so poorly for ineligible workers, the market for these documents would dry up pretty quickly. After an initial period of heavy enforcement by the INS, the level of effort needed to keep the system honest would drop pretty quickly.

    If necessary, an analysis of the data could probably detect owners of legitimate papers who collude with forgers. This would dry up the incentive of holders of legitimate papers to sell them for fraudulent use.

    The large database of verification requests that this system will gather does open the opportunity for data mining far beyond what I can even imagine. This means that the INS can dream up even more schemes to detect fraud as people try harder and harder to circumvent the system. Of course, it also means that legal protections must be built in to prevent the government from using the data in unconstitutional ways.

    This section was first added on 06Dec2008.

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    Error Correction

    Any system that requires data entry by humans (or sometimes other means) can have errors in the data entered. The design of the system must account for this likelyhood and make it easy to correct such errors.

    The eligible worker ought to be able to access the system, type in her or his information, and be told whether or not the information is verified.

    If the system fails to verify an eligible worker, then the system will tell the worker how to contact the agency administering the system to correct the problem. Of course there have to be safeguards so that fraudulent users will not be able to make correct data be incorrect.

    This error correcting system should be routinely used at the point of initial data entry with the applicant present. When the applicant leaves the office with ID in hand, the verification will already have been tried and proven by the applicant. Even with this initial verification, the mechanism will still be available in case errors from unexpected sources manage to creep in.

    This section was first added on 06Dec2008.

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