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by Michele Waslin

Here we go again with the next round of “how we’re going to look tough on immigration without actually accomplishing anything.” This year, mandatory E-Verify is the magic bullet of choice. On Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the “Legal Workforce Act,” which would expand the E-Verify program, making it mandatory for all employers in the United States. A hearing on the bill was held today in the Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee.

Immigration restrictionists argue that imposing a mandatory employment verification system will ensure that unauthorized workers are not able to get jobs in the U.S. and will choose to leave, leaving millions of jobs wide open for unemployed U.S. citizens. Of course, this ignores the fact that there are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.—many of whom have deep roots in their communities; that unscrupulous employers can simply not verify the status of certain workers and hire them “under the table”; that E-Verify fails to identify unauthorized workers approximately half of the time (i.e. it doesn’t work); that mandatory E-Verify will be another expensive mandate for small businesses (the opposite of what is needed to stimulate job growth); and many U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents could lose their jobs due to errors in the system.

The Smith bill ignores all of these concerns. Under the bill, E-Verify would be phased in by size of employer, and nearly all employers would have to use the system within two years. The agriculture industry, which has been making noise about how devastating mandatory E-Verify would be, would get three years to implement the system. Also for agriculture, returning seasonal workers would not count as new hires and would not have to be verified through the system.

Unlike the current system, the Smith bill would allow employers to verify a worker’s status before he or she is hired. It would also require that certain workers be re-verified well after they were hired, and would allow employers to re-verify their entire current workforce, provided it is done in a nondiscriminatory manner. In addition, the Smith bill would significantly limit the types of documents that could be used to prove identity and work authorization. The bill would also increase the penalties for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. Employers would not be penalized for hiring unauthorized workers if they have used E-Verify and relied on it to verify the work authorization of their workforce. And the bill exacts strict penalties for workers who knowingly use false identification documents to secure employment.

During today’s hearing, proponents of the bill continued to tout the magical powers of E-Verify despite the abundance of evidence to the contrary. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) made the improbable claim that “E-Verify is an extremely effective program” and “is ready for mandatory use.” Rep. Smith proclaimed that his bill “could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans.” And he lauded E-Verify as “free, quick and easy to use.”

Others were not so enamored of Smith’s bill and E-Verify. Barry Rutenberg, First Vice Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, cautioned that “E-Verify may be a first step, but it should not be the only step. It is vitally important that Congress continue to work towards a revision and improvement of the nation’s broken immigration and visa systems, and to seek a pathway for workers to legally enter the United States for employment when the economy needs them.”

Tyler Moran of the National  Immigration Law  Center testified that “making use of E-Verify or any electronic employment eligibility verification system mandatory, outside of broader reform of our immigration system, will undermine American jobs and ultimately impose new burdens on our economy, workers and businesses.” Moreover, she noted that “E-Verify has faltered in detecting undocumented workers” and, due to database errors, would “prevent millions of American workers from getting a job.”

We can expect the conversation about E-Verify to continue for the next several months. Unfortunately, this means that the more constructive and necessary conversation about the broader steps needed to fix our broken immigration system will not be taking place. Yes, employment verification is an important element of immigration reform. But without the other elements of reform, mandatory E-Verify could prove to be a disaster for U.S. employers and workers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Please (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks, bobsc, FG, IowaPopulist

    Here we go again with the next round of “how we’re going to look tough on immigration without actually accomplishing anything.”

    As you have yourself written, e-Verify does work about 50% of the time. The current I9 system seems to be working about 0% of the time.

    Immigration restrictionists argue

    The only people who are not 'immigration restrictionists' are those who advocate for open borders. If you believe in restricting immigration at all you are an 'immigration restrictionist'. Your continued use of the term as derogatory just points out that you don't have a lot of background in logic and critical thinking. As the front group for the American Immigration Lawyers association I find this in itself pretty disconcerting.

    imposing a mandatory employment verification system will ensure that unauthorized workers are not able to get jobs in the U.S. and will choose to leave, leaving millions of jobs wide open for unemployed U.S. citizens. Of course, this ignores the fact that there are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.—many of whom have deep roots in their communities

    So then, what you seem to be saying is that we shouldn't have laws against employing illegal immigrants? The fact that an illegal immigrant has 'deep roots in the community' makes it all okay?

    You need to talk to Frank Sharry at America's Voice. Frank feels the same way.

    unscrupulous employers

    And if I, as an illegal immigrant, fraudulently obtain a Social Security card, fraudulently obtain a state drivers license, and fraudulently sign an I9 form, that somehow makes me an upstanding member of the community -- complete with my 'deep roots'?

    E-Verify fails to identify unauthorized workers approximately half of the time

    I'll take a fifty percent success rate as opposed to the current zero success rate.

    mandatory E-Verify will be another expensive mandate for small businesses

    Bull, it's on the web. It takes less than a minute.

    and many U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents could lose their jobs due to errors in the system.

    The database that e-Verify uses is the Social Security database. What you're saying is that if there is a mistake in the Social Security database you'd just rather not know about it.

    The agriculture industry

    You know what? Fuck the agriculture industry, and while we're at it fuck the Chamber of Commerce too.

    I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

    by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 03:26:02 PM PDT

    •  you know the government doesn't have a good (0+ / 0-)

      track record for these kind of databases.

      How many people will be denied work because of this? Will this be like the no-fly list? Where it is easy to get on but not off?

      At least there should be a discussion on this. Both liberals and conservatives are staying quiet instead of asking questions.

      •  One More Time (0+ / 0-)

        The e-Verify database is the Social Security database.

        Say that you are a woman and you married, you take your husband's name but don't alert Social Security of the name change. When you check your Social Security number and name against e-Verify the chances of a no-match are pretty darn good.

        Would you not want to be made aware, as soon as possible, that this condition exists?

        Legal workers have nothing to fear from e-Verify.

        'the groups' like NCLR, LULAC, America's Voice, IPC, etc., etc. have been fighting enforcement of employment laws for decades because they know, as I have written (again) above that there is no real difference between making it practically impossible for an illegal immigrant to work in the U.S. and deporting that same illegal immigrant.

        I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

        by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:34:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  By The Way (0+ / 0-)

          Why do you think that there have never, to my knowledge, been any moves on the part of the Democratic Party to improve employer enforcement?

          They can't because people like Labor Secretary Janet Murguía, late of the National Council of La Raza, represent a great deal of political power and money to the Democratic Party.

          Sure they are doing I9 desktop raids at places like Chipotle Grill, but they don't do anything about that person who fraudulently signed that I9 form and that same illegal immigrant simply waits a week or so and then goes back to that same Chipotle Grill with a new and different fraudulent or stolen Social Security card.

          I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

          by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:42:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A Retraction (0+ / 0-)

            They can't because people like Labor Secretary Janet Murguía

            Hilda Solis is the Labor Secretary. I should know this because we are from the same home town.

            Apologies for the blatant mistake here, I had Janet Murguía on the brain when I wrote this.

            I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

            by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 07:03:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I have a question for the diarist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobsc, FG

    Are you opposed, in principle, to laws againt employing those who are not legally authorized to work in the US?  

    And are you opposed, in principle, to any attempt to enforce those laws?

    Is it just a matter of the specifics of e-verify?

  •  I support CIR, but the arguments against E-Verify (0+ / 0-)

    sound kind of disengenuous. From your diary, it seems like the two major groups who are against this are the agricultural and construction industry - the two industries that hire large numbers of undocumented immigrants. Their opposition are self serving to say the least.

    The truth is, for CIR to work, we do need to have a good enforcement mechanism. E-Verify is one component of that. Even the website you cited conceded that E-Verify is improving its accuracy. Nobody is arguing its perfect. But it is a start. There could be a more streamlined process for appeals, etc. But right now your stance seem to be mostly obstructionist.

    •  It's Not Self Serving (0+ / 0-)

      Their opposition are self serving to say the least

      It makes complete sense.

      As I have written here many times, from the perspective of the illegal immigrant there is no practical difference between making it impossible for an illegal immigrant to work in the U.S. and deporting that same illegal immigrant.

      If one states that they support enforcing the laws against the hiring of an illegal immigrant they may as well  support the deportation of that same illegal immigrant.

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 05:13:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We discussed EVerify many times here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks

    It works ok. It rarely identifies legal workers as illegal ones. It does fail to identify some illegal workers (probably due to fake SSNs). The problem is a bit different imho. Assuming that a lot of illegal workers lose jobs, it will only make things worse. Industries such as agriculture and construction rely on them and these workers have often lived in US for decades and have nowhere else to go. So increased enforcement should be accompanied by other changes in immigration law (CIR) and not just done by itself.

  •  E-Verify is safe and effective (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks

    In fiscal 2010 it was used to verify more than 13 million employees. In the most recent study 0.3% of those submitted to E-Verify had initial nonconfirmations that were cleared up, usually with a simple call or visit to the local social security office.

    E-Verify cannot catch determined cases of identity theft (or purchase). Those are the ones that slip through, but there are provisions in the bill that will start to eliminate those cases too.

    Anyway, you folks at Immigration Policy Center would have no objection to E-Verify or Smith's bill if you actually thought they wouldn't work, would you?

  •  Effective guest worker program needed (0+ / 0-)

    E-Verify has a self-check program that only works for residents in a few states (5?).  Let's get it up and running for the whole country so we can check ourselves and correct errors.  In addition to an E-Verify system that is accurate without false negatives (where legal workers are not approved), we also urgently need an effective guest worker system.  

    Especially for agriculture, we need the guest workers who pick our food, need full worker protection, and return home at the end of each harvest season.  I'm talking about family farms here, not just Big Ag.  Without the workers you won't have the fruits and vegetables we all need.

    •  There Are Currently 8 (9) Guest Worker Programs (0+ / 0-)

      Especially for agriculture, we need the guest workers who pick our food, need full worker protection, and return home at the end of each harvest season

      In the U.S. The H2B program has no quotas and is quite effective.

      The problem is not that there are not guest-worker programs in the U.S., the problem is that when there is an illegal immigrant standing in front of you who will work now, and will work for far less total cost then that guest-worker, and you can hire that illegal immigrant with practically no down-side risk -- whadda ya gonna' do?

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:46:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  By The Way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IT Professional

      According to the Pew Hispanic Center 4% of all illegal immigrants work in any kind of agriculture, and illegal immigrants make up 24% of the agricultural work force.

      A plurality of all illegal immigrants according to Pew work in construction.

      Do we now 'need' illegal immigrants to do our construction work, as we have been told for decades that we 'need' them to pick our crops?

      Illegal immigrants make up about five percent of the U.S. workforce, to say that we 'need' illegal immigrants is just to be ignorant of the facts.

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Wed Jun 15, 2011 at 06:49:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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