About three times a week, a person not authorized to work in the United States comes looking for a job at Westaff in Carson City.
Branch manager Brenda Fagg takes two forms of identification from each person she interviews at the Carson City employment placement agency. She enters the person's name, Social Security number and date of birth into the Basic Employment Verification Pilot Program. In about a second, the computer verifies if that person is authorized to work in the United States.
Westaff is the only business in Carson City registered with this free federal program, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Researchers from the Pew Hispanic Center estimate that nearly 10 percent of Nevada's work force consisted of illegal immigrants in 2004, more than double the national figure. With a statewide job base in 2004 of roughly 1.1 million workers, that means about 105,000 workers in Nevada were undocumented that year. Current estimates put the number of illegal workers nationwide as high as 12 million.
If immigration reforms are passed, employers may be forced to use a computer program that verifies the status of employees, such as the one used by Westaff offered at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site. It's a voluntary program that about 6,000 employers across the country use to verify the work status of potential employees.
Some businesses use an employment screening company, like Employer Lynx, of Carson City.
Other employers just make copies of identification cards and file them away. They don't verify the numbers, which is required by Federal immigration law.
"This (computer) program has taken the subjectiveness out of it," Fagg said. "It's clear whether or not someone is authorized to work in the United States."
Before, Westaff employees had to compare the ID to a picture in a book. Some fakes are pretty obvious. Others aren't.
In her five years with Westaff, Fagg has seen many fake IDs.
"They will use someone's else's ID, and you can tell because they don't look anything like the picture. They'll cut out the picture and put their own picture on the card. Fake Social Security cards are very common."
The fake ones don't have the correct perforated edges. The typeset on the front or back is incorrect. Printing on the front should be raised.
Westaff, which is part of an international publicly traded corporation, checks the work status of an average of 12 people a week, perhaps 800 people a year, Fagg said. About three people a week don't clear the system.
Fagg gives the person a letter instructing him or her how to clear up a possible problem with the Social Security Administration. Most people don't ever come back.
"Some people have used an alias for so long they tell you how they are going to take care of it and then you never see them again."
Fagg said employers cannot plead ignorant of a worker's status, not when they have so many options open to them.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.