Marketplace Report: A Dunkin' Immigrant Plan

Dunkin' Donuts will begin using a new service to check the immigration status of some employees. Madeleine Brand speaks to Janet Babin of Marketplace about the Dunkin Donuts plan.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. Dunkin' Donuts is making a politically correct statement. Its stores now post signs saying they only hire legal workers. The company is requiring all of its donut franchises to check the immigration status of their new employees. They're using a voluntary federal program called Basic Pilot. MARKETPLACE's Janet Babin is here. And Janet, what is Basic Pilot?

JANET BABIN reporting:

Well, Basic Pilot helps employers to make sure that they're hiring someone who can legally work in the U.S. What it does is it gives them access to the verification system used by the Social Security and the Homeland Security databases so they can verify a potential employee's status. Right now, the businesses rely on applicants to give them their documents and fill out an I-9 form. But there have been problems with that system, because applicants can fake their documents or give out a counterfeit Social Security number. So it's actually easier now, because this is a Web-based program. So employers can just log on from their PC to this verification system.

BRAND: And are they doing that? How popular is it?

BABIN: Well, it is becoming more popular, because employers are up against more scrutiny about who they're hiring. This fiscal year, the program has grown by an average of about 200 businesses a month. And now, about 6,600 companies use Basic Pilot. Most recently, the AMC movie theater chain and now Dunkin' Donuts. I spoke to Jon Keeley with the Center for Immigration Studies, and he says this is one way that businesses can assure customers that they're taking this immigration situation seriously.

Dr. JON KEELEY (Center for Immigration Studies): Saying to the American people, we are going to comply with U.S. immigration and U.S. labor law and do things the right way. I hope it's the start of scores of American businesses doing the same thing.

BABIN: So, Keeley thinks this is the beginning of a trend, and that we'll see more businesses using the system. Also, the House and the Senate have recently passed immigration legislation that includes, among other things, a provision that would make the program mandatory.

BRAND: And are these databases accurate?

BABIN: Well, that's the problem some people see with Basic Pilot. Audrey Singer is an immigration fellow with the Brookings Institution.

Ms. AUDREY SINGER (Immigration Fellow, Brookings Institution): I think the main concern is that there may be inaccuracies in the data, and those - there are consequences to having a mismatch between what an employee or a potential employee brings to the employer, and what the employer finds in the database.

BABIN: And the fear is that if the database is wrong, it could take some time to correct. Or also, there could be a backlash from customers who think that using the program is unfair.

Coming up later today on MARKETPLACE, hurricane season starts tomorrow, and we're looking at how corporate America is buying insurance post-Katrina.

BRAND: Thank you, Janet. Janet Babin of Public Radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE, and it's produced by American Public Media.

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