Administration announces border, immigration initiatives

Changes will include expanded use of a system to electronically verify employment eligibility.

The Bush administration said Friday it will begin a rulemaking process to require all federal contractors and vendors to use a federal electronic employment verification system known as E-Verify to help crack down on illegal immigration.

The administration said this move will "significantly expand use of E-Verify, and make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain jobs through fraud." E-Verify is a free Internet-based system "operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees," according to the DHS Web site.

The changes to the E-Verify system were part of a series of immigration and border initiatives Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez announced Friday.

"These reforms represent steps my administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to better secure our borders, improve worksite enforcement, streamline existing temporary worker programs, and help new immigrants assimilate into American society," President Bush said in a statement.

In addressing E-Verify, the administration said it will help states make greater use of the system. Currently, some states already mandate the use of E-Verify by some agencies and the administration said it will "assist such efforts through outreach and offers of technical assistance."

The White House said it plans to expand the data sources the system can check. The administration plans to seek out voluntary state partners willing to share with the program state department of motor vehicles photos and records. This move is expected to "help prevent illegal immigrants from using fraudulent driver's licenses to obtain employment," according to the White House.

On the border security front, the administration said it is committed to having 105 camera and radar towers and three additional unmanned aerial vehicles on the border by Dec. 31, 2008.

The White House also addressed the issue of cultural assimilation. The administration said the Department Of Education will "launch a free, Web-based portal to help immigrants learn English, and expand this model over time."

"Knowledge of English is the most important component of assimilation," the White House said. "An investment in tools to help new Americans learn English will be repaid many times over in the contributions these immigrants make to our political discourse, economy, and society."