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DHS 2012 Budget Proposal Reveals Continued Focus on I-9 Enforcement and E-Verify

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano recently unveiled a $57 billion Fiscal Year 2012 budget request to meet the various operational needs and goals of the Department, which includes continued worksite enforcement and improvement of the E-Verify program.  Weighing in at roughly 3,300 pages, the budget request describes in great detail the 6 high-level missions of the Department, recent accomplishments of individual agencies, and goals for the coming year.  Under the proposal, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive 10 percent of the $57 billion amount (constituting a 1% increase) whereas the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is slated for 5 percent.  Regardless of the exact numbers, it’s clear that worksite enforcement will continue to be a top priority for ICE and USCIS in the coming year through expansion of Form I-9 audits and the strengthening of E-Verify. Let’s take a brief look at the worksite enforcement accomplishments and goals for these two sister agencies. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Investigations 2012 Total Request:  $1.7 billion The Office of Investigations (OI) is comprised of five investigative components, which includes national security, financial investigations, smuggling/public safety, asset forfeiture, and law enforcement support and information management (this includes theForensic Document Laboratory). Worksite enforcement falls under the public safety umbrella since one of its goals is to “prevent criminals and terrorists from penetrating and harming the U.S. economy through employment in critical and sensitive areas.” OI also  conducts enforcement operations and Form I-9 inspections as well as proactive outreach under the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program. Key Form I-9 Related Accomplishments in FY2010-2011:

  • Completed 887 presentations to 5,868 businesses throughout the United States to build on the successful partnerships with exemplary businesses in the area of immigration compliance
  • Expand nationwide worksite IMAGE outreach training to educate employers on the Twelve Best Employment Practices, proper hiring procedures and methods to reduce unauthorized employment (recently, ICE has been announcing many such partnerships on their website)
  • Establish a centralized unit to conduct Form I-9 inspections to support worksite enforcement investigations (this one we all know quite well).

Key Form I-9 Related Goals for FY2012:

  • Expand IMAGE outreach training efforts nationwide to provide regional and/or local IMAGE training conferences to employers
  • Expand the Computer Forensics Program to address the increases in digital data forensics volumes, while developing new tools and methods to manage and improve the analysis of derived digital information (this one sounds like closer scrutiny of electronic I-9 records…have you examined your audit trail?)

US Citizenship and Immigration Services – E-Verify 2012 Total Request:  $102.4 million E-Verify is special enough to have its own budget section, which provides a basic description of the program and the current enrollment statistics (see my prior post here for even later stats). Accomplishments in FY2010-2011:

  • E-Verify acquired access to U.S. passport photos to expand the photo matching feature in an effort to further detect document fraud (September 2010)
  • E-Verify launched a series of employee-focused initiatives, including a multilingual employee hotline; a series of online, bilingual videos designed to help employers understand their responsibilities under E-Verify and to inform employees of their rights; and a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices to formalize a referral process for discrimination cases.
  • E-Verify enhanced Monitoring and Compliance (M&C) efforts by deploying the first phase of a Data Analytic System (DAS). DAS automates reporting and interfaces with the Compliance Tracking and Management System (CTMS) to populate behavior detection reports that identify potential misuse, fraud, discrimination and other types of noncompliant behavior.
  • Redesign of the E-Verify interface to ensure that employers use proper case closure codes and complete the Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) process.
  • Establishing a Nebraska Verification Operations Center (NVOC) in Lincoln, NE to accommodate M&C staff. The NVOC will be functional in FY 2011.

But wait, there’s more! E-Verify Goals for FY 2011-2012:

  • Launch a self-check function to give employees the capability to verify their own employment eligibility outside of the hiring process. See our blog here for more information.
  • In partnership with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), USCIS will collaborate on the development of a program which confirms whether driver’s license data submitted by an employee matches the information on record with participating states.
  • The Verification Information System (VIS) (supporting both E-Verify and SAVE) will be migrated into the DHS Data Center.
  • A new contract will be awarded supporting VIS operations and maintenance.
  • USCIS will begin status verification (helps resolves TNCs) at the NVOC.
  • Access an updated version of SEVIS II—the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database that houses student and exchange visitor data—in an effort to reduce the number of Tentative Non-confirmations (TNCs) by automatically verifying that nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors are authorized to work.
  • Launch the second phase of the Data Analytics System (DAS). DAS will offer comprehensive analytical capabilities that can support pattern analysis, algorithms, and the use of external data sources, to facilitate monitoring and compliance.
  • Begin developing requirements for a future-state VIS, which will include a modernized technical architecture, improved business process flow, and upgraded content management solutions.

Wow! That’s a lot of E-Verify changes coming our way. What can employers do now to prepare? If you’re contemplating or already using the E-Verify system, I highly recommend that you develop E-Verify “Standard Operating Procedures” for your organization, which carefully outlines the steps to follow, proper use of the system, and any oversight that you see fit. Many of my attorney colleagues on this blog have experience drafting such programs, which can ultimately save you time and money in training and operational efforts.  Once your E-Verify SOP is in place, you can then easily update it as changes occur so that you always stay ahead of the compliance curve. And if you haven’t figured it out already, this area has lots of twists and turns!

Human Resources Today