The opportunity for employment is one of the most powerful magnets attracting illegal immigration to the United States. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 established an employment eligibility verification process, but immigration experts state that a more reliable verification system is needed. In 1996, the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, now within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) began operating a voluntary pilot program, called the Employment Eligibility Verification (EEV) program, to provide participating employers with a means for electronically verifying employees' work eligibility. Congress is considering various immigration reform proposals, some of which would require all employers to electronically verify the work authorization status of their employees at the time of hire. In this testimony GAO provides observations on the EEV system's capacity, data reliability, ability to detect fraudulent documents and identity theft, and vulnerability to employer fraud as well as challenges to making the program mandatory for all employers. This testimony is based on our previous work regarding the employment eligibility verification process and updated information obtained from DHS and SSA.
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