Immigrant Database at Risk of Expiring

Sarita Choury, Morris News Service, Sept. 27, 2008

In a few weeks, South Carolina’s new, bitterly fought immigration law could be largely stripped of its usefulness.

The South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act, signed into law by the governor this summer, relies on a federal database called E-Verify to check Social Security numbers of employees to make sure they belong to legal residents or citizens.

Congress has until November to reauthorize E-Verify, but it is now consumed with the Wall Street crisis. There’s also the coming elections, which means lawmakers are eager to recess so they can make the most of the last stretch of campaigning.

Architects of the landmark illegal-immigration legislation wonder when Congress will reauthorize E-Verify.

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More than 84,000 employers participate in E-Verify, and they have used this system nearly 6 million times this fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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The U.S. House has renewed the program, but it’s stalled in the Senate.

One possibility is to extend the life of E-Verify through March as part of a continuing budget resolution, according to Senate staff.

E-Verify began as a basic program in 1996 for a few states and was reauthorized in 2001 and expanded in 2003 to give employers in all 50 states access.

“I think it’s gone off the radar,” Mr. Massey said. “Immigration was such a huge issue earlier this year and even last year. . . We need to let our congressional delegation know just how important it is to reauthorize E-Verify. That requires everybody getting involved in the effort.”

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