Immigration official: U.S. database missed thousands of workers' IDs
E-Verify lacked naturalization records
SHERYL KORNMAN Published: 06.13.2008
The nation's top citizenship and immigration official said in Tucson on Thursday that the database Arizona employers must use to check a person's legal right to work did not include the names of thousands of naturalized Americans until May 5. "Are we satisfied with that? No. We will continue to improve," said Jonathan Scharfen, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The naturalization data were added to the E-Verify system for the first time in May as part of ongoing changes in practices by the agency.
The move was made after about 19,000 E-Verify queries nationwide this year erroneously resulted in a "tentative nonconfirmation" of legal eligibility for employment. E-Verify's database previously consisted mostly of data from Social Security records. Of the 70,000 employers nationwide using E-Verify, 24,800 are in Arizona, he said. One-third of the 4 million E-Verify queries in 2008 originated in Arizona, he said.
Scharfen also addressed the backlog of citizenship applications at the agency's office in Tucson, estimated at 4,500 in March. He said seven full-time employees have been added to the agency's Tucson staff of 16 to improve processing time. That will help bring the number of applications processed in Tucson in fiscal 2008 to 3,500, about 1,000 more than the 2,456 applications processed here in 2007, he said. In March, the agency estimated it would take up to 16 months to process the 2007 applications.
"Those who applied (for citizenship) in 2007 will be processed by Oct. 1, in time for the November election," Scharfen said.
The voter registration deadline for the general election in Pima County is Oct. 6. Scharfen pointed out that the agency has been working with the FBI to speed its check of each applicant's name, reducing the time to 30 days.
He said the Department of Homeland Security provided $35 million to the FBI to hire 80 full-time and 220 contract workers to speed its work. "By the end of May, all (citizenship) applications pending more than three years will be completed. By the end of July, all applications pending more than two years will be completed," he said.
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