DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is tentatively scheduled to testify before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee about DHS immigration enforcement policies on May 6, 2009. Given Secretary Napolitano’s novel interpretations of federal law, the Heritage Foundation will be posting a series of questions (and suggested answers) for the Secretary.

Questions for Napolitano # 2: Does the Obama Administration unequivocally support E-Verify and IMAGE?

E-Verify allows employers to confirm an employee’s ability to legally work in the United States. An employer enters information provided by a prospective employee (from the I-9 form) into an online portal. The system then compares that data to information in Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. It then issues either a confirmation or a non-confirmation. Non-confirmations can be resolved if an employee can later prove that there was a discrepancy in the system. If it is not resolved, a final non-confirmation is issued and the employer is not allowed to hire the worker.

E-Verify has been a success. More than 80,000 employers participate in E-Verify, and the system has confirmed the identity of over 5.3 million workers. The program has been a success because it helps employers enforce immigration laws in a cheap and user-friendly fashion. For example, the software is free and requires very basic information—information already found on the I-9. Knowing beforehand that an employee can legally work also minimizes the cost of having to hire new employees later. And with an error rate of fewer than 4 percent, employers can comfortably rely on the program.

IMAGE also is a voluntary program for companies that wish to verify that their employees can legally work in the United States. For a company to be IMAGE-certified, it must receive training from ICE on hiring procedures, detecting fraudulent documents, and using E-Verify. In addition, companies must also undergo an I-9 audit and check the legitimacy of existing employees’ Social Security numbers. The program currently has 27 full members.

Rather than continue the uncertainty of whether E-Verify will be a permanent tool of the federal government, the Obama Administration fully supports permanent authorization and funding the use of and expansion of E-Verify and equally supports the IMAGE program.

For more information on Heritage’s work on E-Verify please see Jena Baker McNeill and Matt Mayer’s Webmemo, Don’t Let E-Verify Perish in the Next Congress.

Also see Question 1: The Future of State and Local Immigration Enforcement