As a result of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arresting approximately 680 people in sweeping raids at seven sites in six different cities in Mississippi on Aug. 7, the National Chicken Council (NCC) sent a letter on to President Donald Trump seeking additional ways to offer protection to those hiring workers as well as improvements in validating documentation.
Koch Foods, one of the companies targeted in the raids, said it has voluntarily participated in the federal government's E-Verify program for more than 10 years but was unable to accurately identify employees who were unauthorized.
NCC stated that it wished to “express serious concern about the ability of employers to ensure that they do not inadvertently hire an individual who is not eligible for employment.” The letter noted that the U.S. chicken industry uses every tool available to verify the identity and legal immigration status of all prospective employees.
“Unfortunately, the government does not provide employers with a reliable verification method to prevent identity fraud and document falsification and confirm with confidence that new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States,” NCC said.
Using the E-Verify program, Koch Foods verifies through the federal government’s databases that every employee hired is authorized to work in the United States. For years, Koch Foods also has implemented a strict and thorough employment verification policy of additional comprehensive measures to ensure that the company hires and retains only authorized workers -- measures it has vigilantly followed. Those measures, however, cannot eliminate the possibility of unknowingly employing an unauthorized worker.
For example, a worker could steal the identity of a person who is authorized to work in the U.S. and then present to Koch Foods identity and work authorization documents that appear authentic. When Koch Foods puts such worker through E-Verify, the system indicates that the worker is authorized because, unbeknownst to the company and the E-Verify system, the information the worker has provided pertains to the stolen identify of an authorized worker.
“Koch Foods is prohibited from asking a worker for additional documentation in such a situation and from disqualifying a worker from employment because of his or her national origin or citizenship. Therefore, Koch Foods must simultaneously comply with both federal immigration laws and discrimination laws,” Koch said in a statement.
The NCC letter noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Citizenship & Immigration Service currently maintains three different categories of documents that prospective employees must submit before being verified as eligible for employment in the U.S., delineated as List A, B and C.
• List A documents prove both identity and employment authorization.
• List B documents prove just identity, such as a driver’s license or school identification card.
• List C documents prove just employment authorization.
Current law provides applicants with the choice of submitting one document from List A or one document each from lists B and C. Many prospective employees choose to provide List B and List C documents, which are easily falsifiable and lack biometric identification. Currently, multiple people can earn wages on the same Social Security number (SSN) or use the SSN of a deceased individual. E-Verify alone does not flag if the SSN presented is a duplicate or belongs to a deceased individual. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides little cooperation or resources to employers trying to combat identity fraud, NCC added.
“In a situation when an applicant submits documents on list B and C, NCC believes employers should be allowed to require the use of E-Verify Self Check before hiring the individual,” the letter stated. E-Verify Self Check is an online service that combines the use of E-Verify with an automated “Connect the Dots” program that pulls data from publicly available records and requires prospective employees to take a test on that data. “Unfortunately, industry currently may not require the use of Self Check under any circumstance, before or after hiring an individual,” NCC said in its letter to Trump.
Of course, not all applicants will be able to successfully complete the Self Check, as they may have inadequate information in public databases. “When this occurs, programs must be in place to ensure that eligible employees are able to appeal the results or address the issue with the appropriate government agency in a timely fashion. DHS should provide employers with an automatic and expeditious appeals process for these employees. Having this system in place will ensure that only applicants who are legally permitted to work in the country even apply,” NCC added.
The SSA must be required to verify that SSNs are not being used in duplicate locations or are not matched to deceased individuals. The Social Security Number Verification System can verify via the internet that employee SSN information matches SSA records; however, they currently can only be used for tax and wage reporting (Form W-2) purposes. The system is also limited to matching information that is easily acquired by an individual committing identity fraud (e.g., name, SSN, date of birth and gender).
“Providing employers with the additional information of duplicate SSNs or SSNs of deceased individuals can help stop identity fraud by unauthorized applicants while also alerting authorized employees that they may be the victim of identity theft. Employers who discover employees with duplicate SSNs or SSNs of deceased people should use the same DHS automatic referral process previously described,” NCC said.
NCC also said a safe harbor should be provided for employers who voluntarily utilize the E-Verify Self Check and follow the automatic referral process. “This safe harbor should insulate an employer from liability unless the government can show beyond a reasonable doubt that the employer knowingly failed to use these tools in good faith. This trade-off is only fair,” NCC said.
“An employer that does everything possible to avoid hiring unauthorized employees should not be exposed to further liability. It is the responsibility of employers to help ensure that the law is followed, but it is the obligation of the government – not U.S. employers – to provide a secure worker verification system,” NCC said.
NCC added that the U.S. chicken industry uses every tool available, but as recent events have shown, these tools have significant flaws. “As a businessman yourself, you understand the difficulty in securing a legal workforce and the disruptions to commerce that arise when the tools provided are inadequate,” NCC wrote to Trump.