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Immigration law may translate into jobs

Posted on August 18, 2011
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If bill mandating status verification passes, local center’s staff could grow

If all employers are required to verify the immigration status of their new hires, it could mean jobs for Western New Yorkers.

Buffalo is the headquarters of the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-Verify, an Internet- based system that performs the checks.

“We are the leader for the nation in status verification,” said Thomas S. Barone, chief of the Buffalo Verification Operation Center.

The center could grow if employers are required to verify the eligibility of all immigrant job applicants. A bill has been introduced in Congress to make it mandatory for employers to vet immigrant job applicants using databases for Social Security, U. S. Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies.

Currently, using E-Verify is voluntary. Almost 240,000 employers are enrolled in the program, and they made 16.5 million queries last year, mostly online.

Using E-Verify is mandatory for federal contractor employers, and is required, with limitations in a few states, including Arizona. But its use is largely voluntary throughout the country.

However, if mandatory verification becomes law, inquiries would surge, resulting in possible employment opportunities for area residents, said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, during a visit Friday to the Buffalo office.

The office currently has a staff of 130, and the majority hail from Western New York, Barone said.

The office opened in October 2009 and is the largest of six offices nationwide, with the bulk of the division’s 176 employees.

In addition to E-Verify, the office provides support for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Programs, which verifies eligibility for government services and benefits for state agencies. So far this year, more than 1.3 million referrals for both programs have been processed, which is an increase from last year, Barone said.

The Buffalo office monitors the E-Verify system, ensuring the database is being used properly by employers. Referrals that employers can’t handle themselves online are processed manually. There were 1.5 million such cases last year, and 700,000 were handled in Buffalo.

Mayorkas said usage of the system and workload are contingent on the job market. The top three industries that use E-Verify are professional, scientific and technical; administrative and support services; and bars and restaurants. California, Arizona and Texas are the states with most referrals.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced a bill in May that will require employers to make use of E-Verify, within two years for most industries and within three years for agriculture. The bill includes criminal penalties for employers who don’t comply.

13 Aug 2011

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