On July 18th, the Interim Business and Labor Committee (Utah Legislature) comprised of both State Senators and Representatives met to discuss some issues related to employment verification and misclassification of employees (independent contractor vs traditional employee).
Audio (real player) of the hearing is available below (or click here). I have also put key links I used in this post at the bottom for easier reference as well as links to sign up for EEV and IMAGE. If you choose to listen, the hearing is long (almost 3 hours). There is an introduction to the subject matter at the beginning and testimony on the verification begins about a half hour into the audio and goes for around an hour:rtsp://ra.le.state.ut.us:554/committee/rW125-0718070.rm
***Note: ICE has made a lot of improvements in the Basic Pilot program. It was superseded by the Employment Eligibility Verification Program (EEV), but many still refer to it as the Basic Pilot.***
I’ll try to summarize the verification part, as best I can (focusing on the verification stuff). My comments are have brackets and are in green. First, all industry reps noted their annoyance with the federal government for not addressing this issue and allowing the problem to fester resulting in States having to tackle the problem.
The first testimony came from Jim Olsen, representing the Retail Merchants and Food Industry Associations.
He then stated they shouldn’t be a police force and already use the I-9 form.
[Verification doesn’t require enforcement, just not hiring an ineligible worker and companies already collect taxes for the government etc. The I-9, as noted later, sits in employer files and does absolutely zip for ID verification].
He then stated that the Basic Pilot program is not perfect as the only information returned is the name and SSN and someone who has stolen the name along with the SSN will not be caught.
[Assistant Attorney General Richard Hamp refutes the latter stating that 90% of his cases involve SSN only theft – ie they thief didn’t have the matching name. Also, the program does include the SSN holder’s date of birth (you plug in the same data as collected on an I-9) – something none of the legislators or those testifying, including Hamp, seem to be aware of. The DOB entry will virtually eliminate a child ID theft for employment. Also, photos may be added to the program].
Mr. Olsen states one benefit of Basic Pilot is that companies gain legal protection if they unknowingly hired ineligible/illegal workers while using the program, as seen in the Swift Plant raids.
Mr. Olsen noted that the State is at full employment and employers hire almost anyone. He then says we shouldn’t deport 12 million illegal immigrants.
[This has nothing to do with the EEV program, it only denies employment to ID thieves and doesn’t deport anyone. Remember, too, that identity thieves are not just illegal immigrants – fugitives, deadbeat moms and dads, parents with bad credit (now in process of using their child’s id to trash the child’s credit), among others, rely on identity theft to get by].
Then Mr. Olsen threatens that we better have garden plots, as the food industry will shut down without immigrant labor.
[If he’s referring to illegal immigrant labor, the fruit grower rep inadvertently blows this out due to his success with the H2A program and a Senator calls BS on this tactic noting that it is also about paying a market driven wage].
Rep. Morgan asks if there are any holes with the Basic Pilot program.
Mr. Olsen responds that he’s heard that the telephone number can be busy as can the internet service. [He relies on hearsay, more on this later. Also, he seems to be confusing a weak Social Security Administration
program that allows employers to call a 1-800 number to verify social security numbers and names with the internet based Basic Pilot program which verifies all info on the I-9 form – name, DOB, SSN, etc., etc.].
Rep Ferry notes an employer can’t challenge documents related to the I-9 [nothing to do with EEV/Basic Pilot] and wouldn’t as he would want to hire any warm body.
Rep David Clark lists off a bunch of acts employers must adhere to and doesn’t think employers need another layer. [I don’t like fed mandates, but when it comes to legal hiring practices, however, the EEV would be a tool that is easy to use and returns a rapid result. “The EEV virtually eliminates Social Security mismatch letters, improves the accuracy of wage and tax reporting, protects jobs for authorized U.S. workers, stops all child identity theft and helps U.S. employers maintain a legal workforce.” In addition, an employer who verifies work authorization under the EEV Program has established a rebuttable presumption that it has not knowingly hired an unauthorized alien. Thus, rather than being onerous, the program actually benefits employers. It will save them time in the end and allow them to avoid the embarrassment and bad publicity that comes from hiring individuals with our children’s stolen identities].
Olsen notes Mexico has a thriving document fraud industry with excellent counterfeiters who can even duplicate drivers licenses.
[Again, nothing to do with the Basic Pilot program…maybe he’s not clear on what the Basic Pilot program is? Further, it sounds like the document rings only forge the documents (not stealing a full, valid ID – EEV will thwart these fraudulent IDs].
Rep. David Clark complains that his business [Banker – Zions Bank, I think], has been deputized by the feds to track money transfers. We shouldn’t beat employers to do this – we shouldn’t legislate morality.
[Is he complaining about stuff that helps prevent money transfers for terrorist activities?].
Tom Bingham, representing the Utah Manufacturers Association. States his annoyance with the Fed and notes States will have to address this, now.
Rep Niederhauser brings up Sen Walker’s legislation dealing with ID theft noting that most SSN abuse occurs with non-matching names and one child had 37 people using their number. Why isn’t Social Security Admin (SSA) doing anything about this? He doesn’t like putting more pressure on business, but it will alleviate a lot of problems.
Bingham notes it won’t solve all problems.
[Correct, it won’t stop full identity theft (SSN, name, DOB, address etc etc) but it will make things much tougher – thieves will have to find someone close to their age, and child id theft will be virtually eliminated (a 10 year old man applying for a job, is sure to raise flags – plus he’ll be ineligible, anyway, based on child labor laws)].
Someone notes that SSA won’t say anything about the mismatches as it is more money to keep the program afloat.
[Partly true, but I think some privacy law ends up prohibiting SSA from informing victims. Finally, to SSA’s credit, they are involved in EEV].
Rep. Morgan says she doesn’t want to needlessly burden business but we should protect people’s identity. The I-9 doesn’t help (brings up child SSN theft) and says there is not central place for I-9 inspection – all are stuck in the employers file. [ICE has a program (IMAGE) for companies to, voluntarily, allow ICE to run the forms in their database – but not many have signed up…imagine that].
Chad Rowley with Payson Fruit Growers is up next.
He discusses how well the H2A (seasonal migrant worker) program has worked very well for him and thinks that 100% of his workers are legal because of using it, something he could not have boasted 5 years ago. [This goes against Mr Olsen’s implication of needing the illegal workers].
Someone asks about illegal workers and Mr. Rowley responds by stating ‘we don’t know of any working for us’ (he stresses “know”). Everyone laughs [this contradicts his earlier statement?…]. He then threatens: we’ve never been hungry here and if we do what is suggested here, maybe we’d find out.
[Not sure where he’s going here – maybe he thinks legal immigration will be shut down (ie the H2A program)? Also, his point is BS – we’ll get the workers (he’s already stated the migrant worker visa works great and no one is going to let our food supplies tank). By the way, labor accounts for only about 6% of the cost of food, despite Geraldo’s hilarious rhetoric, it won’t cost us $10 for a head of lettuce].
A legislator notes that he used to work in the fields and low wages is a reason he moved on. If we’re having trouble getting people, maybe wages should be raised.
Sheri Hayashi with the Utah Labor Commission is up next. She says they have already talked with the Dept of Workforce Services and are willing to cooperatively implement and enforce any such program, if passed.
Someone asks if she is aware of any better methods than the Basic Pilot – she says no, but notes that ICE is coming out with improvements. [She may not be aware of EEV].
Next up is Bill Starks with Workforce Services. He discusses his agencies role in collecting wage data etc and notes many names do not match SSNs. Recent legislation has allowed him to start informing victims and employers of mismatches. In the first quarter of 2006, there were 20,000 mismatches and thinks only about 20% (4,000) are id theft victims (suggesting the rest forgot to change their maiden name with SSA etc). Notes that these are ONLY people on public assistance, and not the general public.
He says he is ready to work with the Labor Commission on implementation and enforcement.
Finally, Richard Hamp with the Attorney General’s office is up.
He states the Basic Pilot is workable and readily accessible, having used it himself [refutes Olsen’s hearsay statement].
Notes 90% of ID theft he deals with is unsophisticated – the name and SSN don’t match.
Also says 90% of theft is driven by illegal immigrants using someone else’s SSN.
States deporting all would create a problem BUT continuing the current system is fostering a large amount of ID theft.
He doesn’t believe it would be a violation to check the legal status of a worker as long as you didn’t do it based solely on national origin. This reflects Mr. Olsen’s remark.
[Also, signing up to use EEV only applies to new hires, not current employees – for current employees you would have to sign up for the voluntary ICE program (IMAGE) I mentioned earlier].
Someone asks if internet access to program is more reliable and doing better.
Hamp responds that President Bush has put a lot more funding into it and he (Hamp) has had no problems with it when he’s used it. It appears to be much more reliable.
[$114 Million was allocated to EEV for FY2007 (pdf) or click here for a better breakdown of the monetary allocation].
Mr. Hamp notes that other States have required employers to use it and it hasn’t shut down business in their states. [Politely slaps down the implication made by some of the industry folks who testified at the beginning].
He thinks it will help solve a large part [90%, as noted] of the ID theft problem and admits it will not do much against full identity theft.
That pretty much wraps it up. The chair assigns some legislators and state agency folks to try to hammer out a solution for this (by the next legislative session with the qualification that they try to avoid a new burden on employers).
I got tired of listening, so I’m not sure if they took public comment at the end of the hearing.
One last item. Someone at the hearing also mentioned this (stole my thunder!) – use of the Basic Pilot may push thieves to the more sophisticated (and difficult) full identity theft. However, again, this will still be difficult with the date of birth data (and, possibly, photos) in the program and it would still virtually eliminate child SSN theft. A big win in my book.
CIS expands its eligibility system
Social Security Testimony Before Congress – Statement of Frederick G. Streckewald on EEVS
Statement of Jock Scharfen, USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) Regarding a Hearing on “Problems in the Current Employment Verification and Worksite Enforcement System” – Before Congress (PDF)