More Employers Using Feds’ Illegal Worker Screening Database

Besides a donut and coffee, Boston-area customers of Dunkin Donuts are getting a reminder that the simmering nationwide debate over illegal immigration is starting to become every employer?s business. Some customers are now being greeted by signs that read: ?We follow the law! This company hires lawful workers only.?

Dunkin? Brands, the parent company of Dunkin Donuts, has announced that it now requires all 5,000 of its U.S. franchisees to participate in the government?s Basic Pilot program, a voluntary federal program that enables employers to tap online databases from the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration to quickly verify whether new recruits can work legally in this country.

While only 6,200 of the nation?s 8 million employers have signed up for the program so far, rising interest in the program suggests that more employers want to avoid hiring illegal workers and the hefty fines that could result from doing so. Some simply want to address consumer assumptions that workers who speak English as a second language are illegal workers.

The verification division for United States Citizenship & Verification Services is also managing the Basic Pilot program, and it?s just one of a growing list of federal agencies devoting more resources to immigration policy and enforcement.?

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The worker verification program saves companies the money they might otherwise have to spend checking the backgrounds of new recruits. And while participation doesn?t guarantee that an employer will never be audited by the DHS, many believe it provides ample legal cover while Congress hammers out new immigration enforcement legislation.

One thing Washington lawmakers won?t have to negotiate in coming weeks is the mandatory implementation of an employment verification program similar to Basic Pilot, because that provision was written into the bills already passed in both the House and the Senate.

Growing employer interest in the Basic Pilot program has sparked an outcry from immigrant rights groups, in part because federal officials have acknowledged errors in the system that can mistakenly label some legal workers as illegal. The debate is also raging in the blogosphere.