Statement by Peter Spencer,
Assistant Regional Commissioner , San Francisco
before the a Senate Select Committee

December 12, 1995

Madam Chair and Members of the Committee:

I am pleased to be here to discuss SSA's role in employment authorization verification. The Clinton Administration believes that worksite enforcement of immigration laws is a necessary and effective means of controlling illegal immigration, and is firmly committed to establishing an effective, nonĀ­ discriminatory means of verifying the employment authorization of all new employees. In fact, the Administration has already taken a number of steps to address this issue, and I will review them today.

SSA's Role in SSN Verification

Let me begin my discussion today by briefly reviewing how SSA now verifies Social Security numbers (SSNs) and then discuss our plans for piloting new procedures to help prevent unauthorized work.

SSA has always had the capability to verify SSNs, which is an important function in ensuring accurate wage reporting and, ultimately, accurate benefit payments. Employers may immediately verify SSNs for payroll purposes by calling our 800-number or local office. Relatively few employers call, however, because they tend not to question the name and SSN provided by an employee. And although this option is available to employers, neither the 800-number nor local offices are equipped to handle large numbers of SSN verification requests.

With the expansion of the SSN's use over the years, especially as a result of widespread dependence on computers, SSA began to experience more and more requests for SSN verification for purposes other than the Social Security program. Many of these requests were from government agencies for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy of other Federal and State benefit programs, and automated data exchange systems were developed to comply with these requests.

One of the systems that was developed to verify SSNs for States is available to employers to verify SSNs. The Enumeration Verification System (EVS), which was designed to carry out SSA's role with respect to the FederalĀ­ State Income and Eligibility Verification System (IEVS), verifies SSNs based on data such as name and date of birth. Under Federal law, since the mid-1980's, each State has been required to have an IEVS to match financial information.

One of the pilot projects is a two-step process using SSA and INS databases. Current plans call for 25-50 selected volunteer employers in California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois to request verification of employment eligibility by submitting to SSA, by touchtone phone, a newly-hired employee's SSN, name, and date of birth. SSA will match that information against its database and will also check for citizenship/alien status coding. If SSA records indicate that the employee was not a citizen at the time he or she applied for an SSN card, SSA will advise the employer to verify with INS, using the employee's alien identification number, that the employee is authorized to work. We expect to begin the pilot on a s mall scale by Spring 1996 and to expand it to 1,000 employers by early 1997.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Madam Chair, we fully understand and share this committee's concerns about improving the integrity of the employment eligibility verification system. SSA will continue to assist employers in verifying employment eligibility.