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Builders strongly in support of recruitment tool

E-Verify may at some point be available by phone.

While there's no shortage of jobs immigrants have in the U.S. that enable them to send money to their families back home, a considerable number of foreign nationals work in the construction industry. However, due to circumstances beyond their control, many hiring construction firms have had some difficulty with recruitment due to concerns about their immigration status.

Thanks to the implementation of the E-Verify program, that's become less of an issue.

E-Verify is an internet services that approximately 409,000 employers use, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing businesses to cross-reference data and determine if immigrants are authorized to work. The program has been so successful that an estimated 1,300 new businesses sign up to use the service each week.

Christopher Gamvroulas, a Salt Lake City home builder and developer, recently testified on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders before a group of legislators serving in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. He indicated that as lawmakers continue to deal with updating immigration laws, a key component of its reform should include E-Verify, which he says is quite user-friendly.

"On the whole, we have found E-Verify to be an efficient system," said Gamvroulas. "Generally speaking, it is easy to use."

At the same time, though, its implementation hasn't been flawless. Gamvroulas then made some recommendations about how the E-Verify system can be used so that it enhances the employer-employee relationship and gives business owners greater flexibility. For example, instead of only allowing employers to use the internet-based system once an applicant starts their job, business owners ought to be able to use it as soon as the candidate agrees to work.

"Allowing us to verify our workers' status the day they accept the job offer will give us more lead time to handle tentative non-confirmations for those who are ineligible to work," said Gamvroulas.

In addition, he suggested that E-Verify be accessible through multiple channels, such as by telephone. Because many construction firms only have a handful of employees and are rarely in the office, the telephone serves as another way the program can be used, such as while on the job site.

Immigrants represent one in every five construction workers
According to a recent analysis conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 15 percent of the national workforce is comprised of people who were born in a country outside of the U.S. But in the construction industry specifically, the immigrant worker ratio is much higher, accounting for roughly 20 percent of the workforce. Of these, more than half – 54 percent – come from Mexico and one in every four native to either Central America or South America.

E-Verify has received stellar ratings from many business owners that aren't all within the construction field. In a recent poll conducted by USCIS, out of 1,300 randomly selected employers who use the program regularly, customer satisfaction scores averaged 86 on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the highest possible score.

"This customer survey validates the success of our efforts, which we have undertaken in collaboration with the business and labor communities and other key stakeholders," said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS.

The poll also found that business owners were confident about its accuracy, were more than likely to continue using it for the foreseeable future and expect to recommend its use to other employers.

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