The immense challenge of employee/employer verification, Part 2

This is what the U.S. is confronting in processing immigrant workers, per a Washington Post article:

In Tallahassee, Aman Kapoor, a computer programmer who is in the final stages of obtaining his green card, has been called for fingerprinting five times. “Next time if they call me, I am just going to leave my fingers there,” said Kapoor, one of the founders of Immigration Voice, a group that advocates for legal immigrants. “Give me back my fingers once you are done.”

In another case cited by the Post,

Arturo Zavala entered the United States illegally from Mexico in 1976 and picked mushrooms in Pennsylvania for a decade before he became a legal resident. But that menial labor was not the toughest part of life here. More difficult was gaining permission for his wife, daughter and two younger sons to join him and his eldest son here. The family finally reunited in 2001, 14 years after Zavala received his green card as part of a 1986 amnesty program for illegal immigrants.

And what about this?

In 2004, the agency submitted 1.9 million sets of fingerprints and 1.5 million names to the FBI, numbers that would grow tremendously if the Senate bill became law, according to the GAO. As of now, 113,000 FBI name checks have been pending more than six months, and 40,000 more than two years, officials said.

More from the article:

Of the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, about 10 million may register to apply for legalization if the Senate plan passes, said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a research center. That could overwhelm the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which last year granted permanent residency to 1.1 million people and awarded temporary worker visas to 200,000.
Supporters of the Senate proposal note that Congress has learned some lessons from 1986. The bill would set a six-year processing window and would require participating immigrants to register within 90 days.. Citizenship and immigration bureau officials, however, said they would need much more time and more staff to register millions of applications. Director Emilio T. Gonzalez said it would take six to nine months just to register a group the size the Senate bill contemplates. Michael Aytes, the agency’s associate director for domestic operations, added: “We can’t approach anything like legalization on the scale being discussed in a traditional way. We would have to grow too far, too fast.”
The Senate bill would set up complex rules for how illegal immigrants can apply for legal status, depending upon how long they have been here. The legislation also says immigrants would have to prove their U.S. work history with at least two documents. Many would not have pay stubs or tax records, so the law provides for sworn affidavits from employers. The rules and use of affidavits would open the process to fraud, experts said.
“The document of choice inevitably will be an awful lot of legal statements saying, ‘Yes, I employed this guy.’ Well, once you move to affidavits, then you basically have next to nothing,” said former Immigration and Naturalization Services commissioner Doris Meissner. “How do you design an affidavit system that has integrity?”
Skeptics of the Senate proposal cite a provision of the 1986 amnesty law that targeted agricultural workers. Congress expected 200,000 to 400,000 people to apply. Instead, 1.3 million people came forward — twice as many people as were employed on farms in some states, according to labor statistics — taking advantage of shorter residency requirements and low burdens of proof. Many then disappeared to take non-farming jobs. By 1989, federal officials placed nearly 400,000 applications on hold and made hundreds of arrests for fake documents. Some applicants are still in limbo.
The citizenship and immigration bureau currently faces a backlog of pending cases and security checks, as well as antiquated technology and a shortage of skilled personnel.
The Bush administration has set aside $560 million over five years to reduce a backlog that numbered 3.8 million cases in 2003 — there were 276,000 as of June 2006, not counting 1 million cases that await actions by applicants, other government agencies or openings in quota-based programs. The Government Accountability Office says the citizenship and immigration bureau is unlikely to meet a six-month processing target by September as it had promised.
“The hidden chokepoint here is going to be the security background checks,” Meissner said. “The FBI is not set up to handle the volume that the immigration agencies are generating.”
New technology is supposed to help. The Senate bill would require that by October 2007 all permanent immigration documents be machine readable, fraud resistant and linked to biometric indicators, such as fingerprints, and that Homeland Security and FBI automated fingerprint systems be compatible. All U.S. employers would have to adopt an electronic system to verify the eligibility of workers within six years.
But that would be costly. The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would require $800 million to pay one-time costs for facilities and computers.
Officials hope to transform the $2 billion-a-year, 15,000-worker citizenship and immigration bureau through new technology and the expanded use of contractors, paid for by its share of billions in new fees, Aytes said.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Congress must not micromanage eligibility rules, or else even new computer systems won’t be able to handle the workload. “The more documents you have . . . the more fraud you have — that’s the lesson from 1986,” Chertoff said.