It’s often difficult to break through the noise of a presidential election and see real reform ideas, but through the accusations and trivial banter, if you look carefully this year, both presidential candidates have shown flashes of real substance; most notably on the importance of E-Verify, in the greater discussion of immigration reform.

It is the one part of the entire policy debate over ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ where all Americans of all political persuasions are relatively on the same page.

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E-Verify is the government system that allows employers to verify that an employee is authorized to work in the United States. It is ably administered by top-notch officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, specifically the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in concert with the Social Security Administration.

Currently, individual states adopt their own rules associated with E-Verify compliance. There are no minimum or uniform standards for states, which makes it extremely difficult for employers to maintain compliance. Collectively, employers must work with Congress on reforms to reduce the burden of E-Verify compliance.

With both presidential candidates, a bipartisan majority in Congress, most state governors, state legislatures, and the American electorate finally recognizing the importance of E-Verify, perhaps the time has come for a federal congressionally-approved E-Verify mandate.

2017 would appear to be the ideal time to develop such a standard.

So what would such a piece of legislation look like?

There are eight key elements Congress should consider when drafting new E-Verify legislation.

First, federal funding.

A verification program of this nature requires a much greater and significant investment and more prioritization.

Today, employers use a government website or custom software to communicate with E-Verify. Introduced in 2006, the custom software option, known as Web Services, now accounts for over 50% of E-Verify activity.

Given the pace of technology, it’s time to reallocate federal funding to focus on the future infrastructure of E-Verify and Web Services.

Secondly, standardization.

As it stands, state E-Verify statutes are different; and they keep changing.

Federal employees, employees of certain state governments, employees hired in certain states, and employers found to be non-compliant in the past, are all required to use E-Verify.

To reduce burdens and penalties, employers need a federal E-Verify mandate so they only have to comply with one set of rules and employees in every state are treated the same.

Congress should waste no time in passing a federal E-Verify mandate to unburden employers, help ensure a safe work environment, protect jobs for authorized workers, and defend E-Verify from cyber-attack.

Third, infrastructure and redundancy.

For FY2016, E-Verify will process roughly 20 million cases.

Over 10 million of those will use Web Services.

If federally mandated, E-Verify must expand capacity to process 100 million cases per year, which accounts for currently proposed enhancements to the system as well as increasing employment.

Also, E-Verify must eliminate maintenance outages. The solution is complicated and will require infrastructure upgrades for E-Verify and other government systems that verify employment eligibility.

Fourth, hours of operation.

E-Verify goes offline every night because other government systems integrated with E-Verify also go offline each night.

The fact is, employers hire 24 hours a day.  Third shift employees are hired during third shift.

Government systems must be required to reduce – not add – to the burdens on employers.

Fifth, Web Services and specifically, user identification.

E-Verify must be able to identify individuals using the system.

The E-Verify database contains sensitive information so the government cannot allow unknown users to access the system.

Sixth, training.

E-Verify users are not properly trained.

Training requirements are different between the E-Verify website and Web Services. Website users are required to pass tutorials before being allowed to access E-Verify.

This is not the case with Web Services.

Web Services users are not required to pass any tutorials. Training requirements must be defined, tracked, and enforced to make sure untrained users do not access E-Verify.

Seventh, best practices.

E-Verify does not publish best practices on the proper use of Web Services.

For example, third-party software allows a user to open multiple cases for the same employee one after the other.

This is only one example of system abuse that impacts system performance. E-Verify should work with its users to develop and publish comprehensive best practices.

Lastly, eighth, certification.

The government, the business community, and the public must have confidence in the quality of systems accessing a government database.

Software accessing E-Verify using Web Services must be formally certified to ensure consistent, safe, and compliant access to the E-Verify database.

E-Verify is encouraged to pilot opportunities with independent organizations to provide certification.

Certification gives all parties confidence that access to the E-Verify database is monitored, compliant, and prohibits misuse.

These are the eight key criterion to a successful and secure E-Verify system for the future. And with the increasing attention on E-Verify, 2017 seems to be the year to advance legislation on a uniform nationwide standard for E-Verify.

David Fowler spent 30 years working for EWS on E-Verify-related technologies. He is currently the president of E2A2, the E-Verify Employer Agent Alliance, established to provide guidance and recommend reforms for the E-Verify system and its agents. www.e2a2.org 


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.