Like clockwork this time of year, the Department of Homeland Security released its annual budget proposal for FY2013, totaling more than $59 billion. There were few surprises in this 3,134 page budget proposal but some interesting and consistent patterns emerged. DHS’ top five mission priorities include:
- Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
- Securing and Managing Borders
- Enforcing and Administering Immigration Laws
- Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
- Ensuring Resilience to Disasters
Of particular interest is DHS’ focus within its third mission: Enforcing and Administering Immigration Laws, where the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plays a significant role. This is where information regarding worksite enforcements and continued dedication to the E-Verify Program is discussed.
DHS’ Continued Focus for FY2013
In the proposal, DHS reaffirms the efficacy of worksite enforcement efforts, including I-9 Audits, criminal prosecutions of “egregious employers,” imposition of civil fines, debarment, and “education and compliance tools.” This is consistent with DHS’ overall efforts to educate and improve the general public’s understanding of the rules about I-9 Forms via educational tools. In fact, the E-Verify homepage contains a wealth of training videos, demos, and webinar series. (They’ve come a long way!) Efforts to promote the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program is another “educational tool” to help educate employers about E-Verify.
The E-Verify program also seems to be enjoying firm roots at DHS headquarters. All the data seems to indicate that E-Verify may be here to stay (at least through FY2013). Here are the facts:
- The proposal indicates that a request for 404 full-time employees specifically earmarked for the E-Verify program has been made. This is an increase from the current 380 full-time employees currently employed in the E-Verify Program for FY2012. A request in the budget to hire more employees indicates the program is expanding.
- More than 294,000 U.S. employers have enrolled in the E-Verify Program. This amounts to more than 1,000 new employers enrolling on a weekly basis.
- DHS launched the E-Verify Self-Check Program nationwide just last week, which is also available in Spanish.
- Domestic Investigations will focus on “knowingly hiring” and “continuing to hire” laws against employers in order to promote and expand the IMAGE program.
DHS’ Accomplishments for FY2011
DHS also released data for I-9 audits in FY2011 and the figures are astounding! ICE conducted nearly 2,500 I-9 audit inspections in FY2011 and initiated over 3,200 worksite enforcement cases. Over 380 Final Orders were issued, taking in over $10 million in fines.
DHS’s efforts to expand the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program and to integrate the program with DMV records for photo-matching capabilities are also consistent with its stated goals from last year. In fact, the SAVE Program, which is designed for enrollment by federal, state and municipal agencies, have had more than 1,000 government agencies participate. The budget proposal specifically seeks $20 million to continue operating and promoting the SAVE program.
Based on a review of DHS’ budget proposals between this year and last year, DHS has maintained its course. Similar to last year, E-Verify remains an important focus and tool in this year’s budget. E-Verify will be promoted as a voluntary Program for now along with the SAVE program. The integration of SAVE with multiple state DMVs may also help to expand the Records and Information from DMV for E-Verify (RIDE) Program. We will have to wait to see more regarding these efforts.
Only the government knows whether E-Verify will become a mandatory nationwide program. The budgetary and personnel increase indicates that E-Verify will maintain a very strong presence in the future.
The Budget Proposal provides interesting insight to related USCIS missions, goals and accomplishments. Our Immigration and Corporate Attorneys will want to read our sister blog CM Guru to get the updates.
Ann Cun is a U.S. based immigration attorney who has helped companies in the technology, science, business, sports, entertainment and arts fields secure complex work visas for their employees. With more than a decade of experience as a paralegal and attorney, Ms. Cun possesses a stellar record of success. Her legal expertise also includes conducting internal I-9 audits for companies and developing I-9 compliant strategies and solutions. She is a graduate of UCLA and UC Hastings School of Law and has been invited to speak by the Bar Association of San Francisco and the American Immigration Lawyers Association on U.S. immigration related topics, as well as other international conferences. Ms. Cun is a contributing author and currently serves as Counsel and Principal Editor for LawLogix Group.