The answer to this question seems pretty straightforward. Aliens who are not authorized to work in the United States are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, or UI, in any state. Unfortunately, over the years, illegal aliens have been paid millions of dollars in UI benefits nationwide. The reason for this is quite simple. Many of these illegal aliens were not identified by state Employment Security Agencies as illegal aliens who were not eligible for such benefits.
If there were merely a way to screen claimants’ Social Security numbers adequately, the SESAs would be able to quickly identify which claimants are illegal aliens and are therefore not eligible to receive UI benefits. There is a system in place called E-Verify, which is a voluntary program in all states except Arizona. The system is coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration as a means of determining the validity of a person’s Social Security number (i.e., whether the actual SSN is a real number or whether the SSN matches the employee’s name or that of another person). Many employers now use this voluntary system as a means of determining a potential employee’s eligibility to legally work in the United States.
In a similar fashion, if the SESAs used E-Verify, or some other comparable system, as a means of determining whether a claimant who is seeking UI benefits is eligible to legally work in the United States and is therefore also eligible to receive UI benefits, then certainly the abuses of illegal aliens seeking UI benefits would be curtailed. Millions of dollars have been erroneously paid to illegal aliens who applied for UI benefits by state agencies that were unable to verify the SSNs used by these illegals. If a system was in place to adequately screen these claimants’ SSNs, then certainly the benefits could have been paid to unemployed workers who were truly eligible to receive such benefits because they were legally eligible to work in the United States (e.g., U.S. citizens, permanent residents, foreign workers with Employment Authorization Documents under eligible visas). Now, for foreign workers who are legally eligible to work in the United States under non-immigrant visa categories such as the H-1B, H-2A and H-2B, the question as to whether those individuals are eligible for UI benefits is another discussion altogether (which I will reserve for another day). For now, it is clear that illegal aliens are not eligible for UI benefits. Unfortunately, because there is no mandatory system used by the various states to determine the validity of the claimants’ SSNs, the abuses may continue (and millions of dollars lost) unless an effective screening method is employed, in my opinion.
Rob C. Tonogbanua, Esq.
Dickie McCamey & Chilcote, P.C.