Almost everyone expects mandatory electronic employment verification to be part of any immigration reform law that reaches President Obama’s desk. But critics say the system could create headaches for hundreds of thousands of Americans who do have authorization to work in the United States. Under the current rules, if E-Verify says you’re not authorized to work, you have eight days to visit the appropriate government agency and begin an appeal. If you’re not able to go in time, or you can’t convince the agency that a mistake was made, your employer is supposed to fire you.

A study using 2009 data found that 0.3% of applicants suffered initial rejections that were subsequently corrected, allowing the employee to work. But another 2.3% of workers got rejections that were never reversed. And while 0.3% and 2.3% may sound like small numbers, in a nation of 300 million people, that translates to hundreds of thousands of people. “The Department of Homeland Security has admitted at least in briefings to Hill staff that the error rate will go up when the number of people added to the system goes up.” However also added that “If you think that the desire to identify people who work is an important societal value, you have to understand that that’s going to have some incidental adverse cost.”

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