E-Verify: A Public Debate

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recently, President Bush issued an executive order requiring all Federal Government Contractors to participate in the E Verify program. The mandate goes into effect on January 15, 2009. Contractors have 30 days from the award of the contract to enroll in an E Verify program and once enrolled they must use the program to verify the employment eligibility of any new hires within in 90 days of employment. All existing workers who are assigned to the contract must also be verified.

In a recent article, Jim Harper of the Cato Institute criticized the government's E Verify program. "The wave of fear that followed the 9/11 attacks built up the walls - both figurative and literal. President Bush continued to seek comprehensive immigration law reform throughout his tenure, but without success." Harper goes on to say that the Bush administration gave the reform job over to congress and shortly thereafter DHS announced steps to tighten employment eligibility verification.

Harper sees the program as a form of "internal enforcement," a non-entity that requires employers to act as immigration officials on behalf of the US Government. With strict fines incurred against any employer who fails to meet the requirements of E Verify and 7 states with mandated E Verify programs, employers have every reason to be informed.

Harper also sees the program as an anti-immigration program, obviously alienating illegal immigrants. But he also claims that the "Tentative Non-Confirmation" or "No Match" that employers receive when their workers' names and Social Security Numbers do not correspond to the SSA database increase an employers liability.

Understanding that this issue is much larger than simple employment verification, Liberty offers the service to our clients through our partner, Form I9. Though the legalese and the looming threat of fines are both complex and overwhelming, our partner offers a superior program with step by step instructions on how to resolve those "No Match" results, giving detailed information on where the rights of the employer begin and end, detailing the rights of the employee. The electronic archive also ensures our clients have the proper documentation should they be audited for compliance. And, at Liberty, we make every effort to understand the changing laws and inform our clients.

In this moment, E Verify is a hotly contested program that seeks to eliminate illegal workers and empower those immigrants who have been granted the right to work. But is the program successful? Only time will tell, and it hasn't been implemented long enough to determine the results of the program.


Dallas School District Issues Fake Social Security Numbers

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Dallas Independent School district has been providing fake social security number to foreign citizens in an attempt to get them on the payroll quickly. Some of the numbers used were already assigned to citizens living elsewhere. In some cases, the certification office used the numbers to run criminal background checks on the new hires.

In an internal report issued in September, the district’s investigative office said that the Texas Education Agency learned of the bogus practice in 2004 and informed DISD that the practice “was illegal.” How long DISD has been issuing the fake numbers is unclear, and it is unknown how many have been issued. The report indicates, however, that the practice went on for many years and was discontinued only last summer.

The fake numbers were issued as a stopgap to expedite the hiring process when hiring positions particularly for bilingual education. The individuals receiving the bogus SSN’s were supposed to tell the officials when they receive their real numbers so they fake ones could be replaced. The investigation found no indication that the fake numbers were provided to the Teacher Retirement System, the IRS, or the SSA.

In July, the district confirmed that 26 of the false numbers were in use after accessing the Social Security Administration database. Liberty accesses a similar system through our partner, Form I9, which verifies the eligibility of a name and social security number electronically. It is unknown at this time whether anybody holding those numbers has been negatively affected.

Though the school district was told to stop issuing the numbers in 2004, the Texas Education Agency’s director, Doug Phillips said his office believed the practice had been stopped at that time. He said Thursday that he was unaware of a law that forbid issuing fake Social Security numbers, “We knew it looked bad and smelled bad. That was the first time we ever heard of that one.”

It is unknown at this time what, if any, action DISD will face for these charges.


Senators Demand Review of Government Terrorist Watch List

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three US Senators believe that the Maryland State Police Department entered the names of 53 peaceful protesters into the federal databases that watches terrorist activity, and they are demanding a list of those databases.

Benjamin L. Cardin (MD-D), Barbara A. Mikulski (MD-D), and Russell Feingold (WI-D) are the senators involved. "We want to make sure the individuals that are impacted are cleared," said Cardin. "We're not sure what has been done with the federal data bank and we're not sure what procedures are in place to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

Maryland police say they intend to purge their internal files as well as the files from the drug-trafficking database, and are adamant that the names did not reach the no-fly list or the other databases, "at no time was any individual placed on a terrorism watch list," said Maryland State Police spokesman, Greg Shipley.

Though citizens may be aware that list such as these exist, they may not realize the far-reaching impact of them. Liberty's Quick Check search actually utilizes many federal terrorist database lists in an effort to reduce workplace violence and crime.

Washington Post article


Random Drug Tests Result in 15 Resignations

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The City of Mission, Texas has one of the strictest drug testing policies among the Rio Grande Valley cities. They drug test every employee working in “safety-sensitive” positions at least once a year. They show zero tolerance if they uncover illicit drug use.

“The testing is to make sure you have a clean slate of employees that are working at 100%,” Julio Cerda, City Manager said, “I need to make sure we have zero tolerance of any drug whatsoever, including alcohol.”

As many as 15 city employees, all from the same department of about 150 have resigned after failing a mandatory drug screen. Mary Norberto Salinas confirmed the number, which is about 10% of the workforce.

The importance of a good drug testing program is obvious to Mission. Those whose jobs require the use of heavy or dangerous equipment or who drive on duty are a risk if impaired. Not only to themselves, but to any person around them.

Some employees have voiced concern over the testing for alcohol saying that if someone the substance might be lingering in their system but they may not be impaired. Cerda adamantly backs up the program. A person would have to be drinking all night or while at work for alcohol to show up positive in a drug test, and that compromises public safety.


The New Era of Obama: White House Background Checks Get Deeper

Monday, November 17, 2008

A recently released application to become a member of Obama's cabinet and administration reveals a new concept for the background check procedure at the White House. In the rapidly changing world of the Internet, many businesses (as many as 74%) do a standard Internet search on new candidates, especially those who will be filling an executive position.

Obama's application is 63 pages long. The New York Times has posted a copy at their website. It consists mostly of traditional background information, but there in addition, there are questions that have never been asked before:

"Writings: Please list, and if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authorized individually or with others. Please list all aliases or 'handles' you have used to communicate on the Internet."

The scope of the check is far reaching. Obama is looking specifically for information that might "suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to your family or the President Elect if it were made public..."

It is well known that people in the public eye receive an intense amount of scrutiny and any dirty laundry the media or the competition can find on them will be aired eventually. The Internet poses a specific breed of vulnerability. Every body leaves a trail on the Internet, but the anonymity is often what lures people to be more open and fresh. Obama is attempting the deepest level of character checking by looking at what people do when they feel nobody can see them.


Air Marshals Lack Proper Background Checks, Endager Lives

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In a recent survey conducted on the Air Marshals of the US, many discrepancies in the background of the marshals were found. After 9/11, the US Air Marshal force was increased by thousands (though the exact number of marshals is classified) in an attempt to protect and reassure passengers on commercial flights.

The Federal Air Marshal Service is an elite group of agents, charged with making split-second decisions; they hold the lives of innocent passengers in their hands. It is proper that they should be investigated thoroughly, and it is true that they are required to undergo many stages of vetting before being allowed to serve. The marshals can't serve if convicted of a federal crime, leaving room for misdemeanors, such as DUI though TSA policies state that employees who drive drunk "demonstrate a disregard of TSA's mission." 84% of American citizens interviewed felt that a drunk driving conviction should bar the marshal from service.

Crimes committed by marshals while in service are on the rise. Only a fraction have been charged, but the seriousness of the crimes are astonishing. Air Marshals have:

  • Taken bribes
  • Been found sleeping on planes
  • Pulled a gun during a parking dispute
  • Left a gun in the airplane lavatory, to have it found by a teenager
  • Hired a hit-man to kill his wife
  • Smuggled drugs using high security clearance
  • Committed bank fraud
  • Hired a female escort and held her hostage using his handcuffs and gun
  • Smuggled weapons from Afghanistan

The federal agency had better step up their hiring procedure, lives are state, security is at stake. But the agency has actually loosened it's hiring standards in recent years:

  • Recruits no longer have to pass the confined space firearms test that determines accuracy in a space the size of an airplane
  • They no longer have to pass the written psychological exam, or the oral interview with a psychologist
  • Recruits no longer have to have law enforcement experience. The agency began hiring TSA screeners in 2005

The marshals themselves are getting fed up with the lack of standards and the potential smear on the agencies reputation. The female escort who was held hostage summed it up best by saying, the outcome was "horrific" and that the public should be scared, "He's the only one on an airplane with a freakin' weapon, and he's supposed to have it to be protecting us."

USA Today Article


Job Scams on the Rise

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

As the unemployment rate rises, job seekers are facing tougher and tougher competition. More than 1 million jobs alone have been cut this year. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) began receiving calls about a Texas company scamming job applicants.

Antonio Sillano (AKA: Allasondra Sillanogarry) allegedly made thousands of dollars by duping job applicants into paying for their own background investigation after being promised jobs that didn't exist. Hundreds of applicants were conned into paying the upfront fee of $80-$150.

After the fee was ponied up, the applicants never received word from the company's HR department, and the jobs never materialized.

Sillano first came under investigation in February 2007. The BBB had complaints on their reliability report since that time that they were unable to resolve. Sillano was arrested by Memphis police after advertising jobs there. Sillano is accused of identity theft and the Memphis police believe Sillano has operated under various aliases for some time.

The Better Business Bureau urges job seeks to keep a watchful eye out for scams. With the demand for jobs out there, it is safe to say we will see more of this type of behavior. Applicants shouldn't have to pay for their background investigations, the employers typically takes care of that. If you feel you are a victim of a scam, contact the credit bureaus and your own credit card company for further investigation.


Holes in Screening Methods Lead to Vulnerability

Monday, November 10, 2008

Most companies and institutions that practice applicant background checks and doing so because they believe in creating a safe and comfortable work environment. Once a worker is hired, however, background checks for criminal activity are not routinely conducted.

Mount Anthony Union High School regularly screens employees before hiring them. Shawn R. Pratt was screened prior to his employment as a paraprofessional. Charges against Pratt for aggravated sexual assault on a child under 10 and lewd and lascivious behavior with a child are still pending. During Pratt's six year employment at Mount Anthony he racked up several misdemeanor charges including assault and marijuana posseson. His criminal history accrued while he was employed and without the school's knowledge.
The school is not required to run background checks on currently employed individuals, in fact, they are regulated against doing so by the state of Vermont. Health care institution in Vermont have that right, but there is no generally accepted procedure in place.

Joel Cook, the executive director of the Vermont chapter o the National Education Association said, "The purpose of the law is to provide school information about people they are considering hiring and keep bad actors out of the system and away from children. If you have someone in your employ and they get in trouble ... I think we believed that in small town Vermont - and all of Vermont is small towns - more than likely, you'll know about it."
Not a very efficient process for insuring the safety of the children attending Vermont schools.

It is unknown how many state's have laws such as Vermont's on the books. It might be time to reconsider the background checking process after employment.


Sex Offender Caught at Local Carnival

Friday, November 7, 2008

The offender in the video below used a fake social security number to dupe his employers and their background screen:

Liberty's Identification Verification Trace (or SSN trace, address trace report) could have caught the fact that the SSN and the name did not match. When hiring somebody to work around children, or hiring a person for any position of trust, it is important to understand the types of background checks available and what they uncover. A single background check will not uncover everything, it is best practice to use them in combination for the most accurate results.

Fortunately, this man was removed from his position before he caused any harm to the company or its patrons.


The Economy and the Job Market: What You Should Know

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It seems like everyday I read about more and more companies laying off hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. I find myself looking a little harder at the men and women on the corner asking for change and wonder, will there soon be more?

It is safe to say that with these trying times come many hardships. Even those heavily qualified in their fields may find landing a job to be difficult. The competition is at hand, how will you stack up?

Since companies are hurting, too, corporations are looking far beyond job applications to insure they get the right person for the job. The wrong hiring decision can cost a company thousands of dollars and that is just the start. The loss of productivity in these trying times would pack an especially hard punch.

So, in addition to traditional background screening that includes a criminal background check, address trace, credit report or driving record, they are looking to surveys that convey an applicant's honesty and morality level, and even asking applicants to participate in medical exams to avoid increasing health care costs.

All the tactics to get the right person listed above are legal, but there are some employers taking too many steps and if they are not careful, could end up in hot water. Below are list of things employers should never ask as part of the job applicant screening process:

  • Are you planning to have children?
  • Is your child-care provider dependable?
  • What prescription drugs are you currently using?
  • Ever been treated for mental health problems?

Asking questions like these leaves companies open to discrimination lawsuits. When money is at stake, we all get a little more nervous, but make sure to make good, and lawful, hiring decisions and your bottom line might just weather the storm.


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