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Border & Immigration

Restaurant Owners Weigh In On E-Verify

Restaurant owners are weighing in on E-Verify, the federal system for making sure new hires are authorized to work in the United States.

Restaurant Owners Weigh In On E-Verify
A survey by the National Restaurant Association found that restaurant owners are generally supportive of the system for checking employees' eligibility to work.

There are now proposals in both the Senate and the House that would make E-Verify mandatory as part of an immigration reform bill, and it's largely expected that some kind of expansion of the program, or a similar workplace verification system, will be in a final bill.


The National Restaurant Association surveyed about 800 restaurants on their experiences with E-Verify.

“The most stunning number in the survey: 80 percent who use it would recommend it to a colleague," said Tamar Jacoby, CEO of the ImmigrationWorks USA, a business think tank pushing for immigration reform. It worked with the restaurant group on the survey.

About a quarter of restaurants surveyed said they actually used the system, and two-thirds of those enrolled voluntarily. Others enrolled because their states mandated it.

In recent years, E-Verify has been criticized for frequently returning inaccurate results about people’s work authorization. Civil rights and other groups still criticize it, but Jacoby said it has been vastly improved.

“I think it’s a sure thing that if we’d done this survey five years ago the results would’ve looked very, very different," she said.


But in the recent survey, 80 percent of the restaurants that used the system said it had been 100 percent accurate. Smaller restaurants were less likely to use it, and according to the survey, most said they hadn't enrolled because they didn't have human resources professionals on staff.

Jacoby said the system, if it works well, gives business owners peace of mind they are not employing unauthorized workers, explaining the general support for the E-Verify by the survey's respondents.

The restaurant group supports the system, but in a conference call Tuesday, Angelo Amador, the group's CEO, said it should include support staff to help businesses work through glitches.

They also would like the system to completely replace the current I-9 system for worker verification. That program requires employers to keep employees' work eligibility documents on hand and make them available to federal auditors.

Business groups also want protections written into the bill that would shield them from liability for employing an unauthorized worker whose legal status had checked out using E-Verify.