Battle against illegals widens Poultry workers face verification


June 19, 1996|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

GEORGETOWN, Del. -- A government experiment will expand to include the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula, part of the federal government's continuing battle against illegal alien workers.

The pilot program is designed to verify noncitizen workers' credentials by quickly using an Immigration and Naturalization Service database. It will begin in the Delmarva poultry industry sometime this summer, said Kathleen "Cassie" Boothe, a program specialist with INS in Washington.

Boothe and three other INS officials journeyed to Delaware to recruit volunteers for the INS experiment.

The program, called Employment Verification Pilot, began in 1992 with nine employers in five states. It has been used in the apparel industry in California and in meatpacking in the Midwest, Boothe said, and is now expanding into the East Coast poultry industry.

"In seven out of 10 cases, you'll get an answer within seconds," Boothe told an audience of about 15 people who had come to hear the INS sales pitch. The verification system uses a computer to check a noncitizen worker's "alien ID number," normally issued with the green card that gives noncitizens permission to work in the United States.

The verification works this way: Participating employers enter the alien ID number, birth date and first initial and last name of the worker. If the number is in the INS database, a verification is given almost instantly.

If it is not, the employer must then request a secondary verification. That request is forwarded electronically once a day to a computer center in Los Angeles -- the EVP is not an online service -- where one of 14 INS employees assigned to the verification program will investigate the inquiry. Verification of a secondary request takes three working days. If the employee's number still isn't found within the system, Boothe said, then the worker is asked to contact INS directly to resolve the difficulty.

At least one poultry processor represented at the meeting had already signed up for the program. Townsends Inc. will participate, said Kathryn Danko-Lord, a human resources manager. The company has a plant in Millsboro, Del., which employs about 2,000 people with roughly one-third of them noncitizens, she said. The company also has plants in North Carolina, Arkansas and Maryland, she said.

Boothe said that once some members of an industry get on board, the others follow because they don't want to inadvertently hire illegal aliens who have been turned away by companies participating in the pilot. The INS has approached poultry plants in other states, she said, and hopes to have ultimately 1,000 employers take part in the pilot program.

Pub Date: 6/19/96

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