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County Weighs Pros & Cons of Online System That Vets Job Applicants' Work Eligibility

Travis County is working towards using a federal system that verifies the immigration status of those applying to work for the county. But County Commissioners have a few reservations.

E-Verify is a system offered through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that allows employers to compare a potential employee’s I-9 information with federal documents, to quickly verify his or her employment eligibility.

“The federal government is offering us the ability to use E-Verify for free to expedite our hiring of people if they happen to be foreign-born, just to make sure they’re eligible to work here even though they were foreign-born,” says Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.

Todd Osborn with the County’s Compensation Office told Commissioners he didn’t see a downside to adopting the system.

“It’s quick, it’s fairly easy, it has no cost.”

But Commissioner Brigid Shea says she's not so sure.

“It’s not Travis County I’m worried about,” Shea says. “Presumably if this data and documentation on the prospective employee is going to the Department of Homeland Security database, and if they find some mismatch, maybe…”

Maybe, Commissioner Brigid Shea goes onto say, someone could be deported because of a reporting error in the E-Verify system. According to a report published by Homeland Security, in 2013 roughly one-fourth of employers were told employee data did not match federal documents because of a data entry mistake. Commissioners said in a case like this, a potential employee would be notified and given a chance to explain the mismatch. County officials will take another week to hear about possible downsides of adopting the system.

Credit US Citizen and Immigration Services
The E-Verify system will cross-check an applicant's I-9 information with information from Homeland Security.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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