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Staffer Testifies on Immigration

NC State’s international employment manager, Jill Blitstein, got a front-row seat to the debate over immigration reform when she was invited to testify before a congressional panel in the nation’s capital last month.

In a hearing conducted by the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Blitstein helped shed light on the a key component of immigration reform – the electronic system employers use to verify a potential employee’s legal status.

And even though she initially worried about being drawn into a partisan squabble, she returned home to Raleigh with a sense of accomplishment. Most of the questions pertained to NC State’s experience with electronic verification; not policy issues.

“It is possible to have an impact on legislation,” she said. “Even though different congressmen and senators have their own agendas, they truly are soliciting input, having hearings and seeking information. They may have their minds made up on the big things about immigration reform, but they are looking for input on the details. Hopefully, that’s where I added value to the discussion and that’s where NC State can show some leadership in this area.”

Fascinating Process

Blitstein has worked with the much-discussed E-Verify system that is the focus of the “Legal Workforce Act” since her arrival at NC State in 2007. She testified on behalf of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Jill Blitstein at hearing.
Jill Blitstein at last month’s congressional hearing on immigration reform.

She was one of four witnesses to give written and verbal testimony on the issue during a May 16 subcommittee meeting on Capitol Hill. (Full testimony available here.) There were also witnesses representing the restaurant and landscaping industries and a former secretary of immigration and customs enforcement.

“It was a fascinating process, to see how committee hearings work,” said Blitstein, who oversees the university’s electronic verification for some 4,000 new workers every year. That includes hundreds of international workers and students.

System Works

The state of North Carolina has required verification for all public workers since 2007. It recently enacted legislation that requires all employers doing business in the state to verify the employment eligibility of all workers.

The E-Verify system checks government databases through the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security to determine the employment eligibility of all prospective workers, who are either automatically authorized or tentatively non-confirmed by the agencies. Issues with Social Security deal with name changes or naturalization of U.S. citizens, while issues with DHS are typically with international citizens.

Blitstein recalls only two instances in her five years since the E-Verify system was mandated that prospective employees have been flagged for fake documents.

“The system works well,” Blitstein said. “In my opinion, in any form of immigration reform that passes, there is going to be mandatory verification for employment. It’s definitely coming.”