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Should E-Verify, the Federal Government's Electronic Employment Verification System, Be Mandatory for All Employers?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on the page titled "What Is E-Verify?" on the USCIS website, updated Jan. 31, 2014, stated:

"E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility...

E-Verify's most impressive features are its speed and accuracy. E-Verify is the only free, fast, online service of its kind that verifies employees' data against millions of government records and provides results within as little as three to five seconds.

Today, E-Verify is:

  • Used nationwide by more than 500,000 employers of all sizes

  • Used at more than 1.4 million hiring sites

  • Joined by about 1,400 new participating companies every week

  • One of the federal government’s highest-rated services for customer satisfaction."

    [Editor's Note: On Aug. 15, 2011, in order to better understand the E-Verify program while developing this pro-con question, ProCon.org enrolled in the E-Verify program at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) E-Verify homepage: uscis.gov/E-Verify. The process took approximately 50 minutes from start to finish and required us to input data about the company and its proposed use of E-Verify (10 minutes); electronically sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and wait for an approval confirmation email and temporary password (five minutes); log in with the temporary password, change the password, and complete an E-Verify tutorial (30 minutes); and pass a multiple-choice knowledge test with a score of 70% or higher (five minutes).]

  • Jan. 31, 2014 - US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 



    PRO (yes)

    Melissa A. Silver, JD, Legal Editor of XpertHR, wrote in her Nov. 26, 2014 article for the Orlando Sentinel titled "The Front Burner: Yes: Database for Workers' Authorization Operates Well":

    "[A]ccording to the USCIS, when employers use E-Verify to confirm their employees' work authorization, they receive results within seconds. In fact, 98.8 percent of work-authorized employees are confirmed instantly or within 24 hours. So why have there been so many heated debates on the mandatory use of this program?...

    [T]he U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in and held in its Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting decision that the state of Arizona was within its rights to require all employers doing business there to use the E-Verify system. And guess what? Life has gone on. The sky did not fall...

    Critics have various concerns, such as erroneous results preventing otherwise authorized individuals from working. However, erroneous results have declined in recent years. In fact, the USCIS reported that for fiscal fear 2013, 1.19 percent of employees received initial system mismatches. That's markedly less than reported four years ago...

    Opponents also argue that the system promotes identity theft and fraud. In particular, undocumented immigrants stealing Social Security Numbers, thereby wrongfully gaining employment. However, as of last year, E-Verify can now detect and prevent individuals from using fraudulent SSNs to establish their employment-eligibility verification...

    With all of these improvements, E-Verify is like insurance for employers to confirm they have hired an authorized work force and eliminates the guesswork on whether an individual is authorized to work in the U.S."

    Nov. 26, 2014 - Melissa A. Silver, JD 



    Jeff Sessions, US Senator (R-AL), in remarks made on the Senate floor on Apr. 1, 2014, available at sessions.senate.gov, stated:

    "E-Verify works by checking data against records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. It is quick and easy...

    According to a January 2013 USCIS Customer Satisfaction Survey, E-Verify received an 86 out of 100 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index Scale. That is 19 points higher than the customer satisfaction rating for the overall federal government...

    E-Verify has been proven to deter employers from hiring illegal workers and will help to put Americans back on the payrolls. A number of states have already enacted E-Verify laws with great results...

    Our goal must be to help struggling Americans move from dependency to independence, to help them find good and steady jobs with rising pay. Making E-Verify permanent and requiring all employers to use it is one simple thing that we can do to work towards that goal."

    Apr. 1, 2014 - Jeff Sessions, JD 



    Rick Perry, 47th Governor of Texas (R) and 2012 US presidential candidate, stated during a press conference held on Dec. 3, 2014, available on the Texas Tribune's YouTube channel:

    "[W]e must continue to use every tool at our disposal to ensure our laws are being enforced. That's why today I have issued an executive order requiring all state agencies under the direction of my office to utilize E-Verify to check employment status of current and prospective employees...

    The E-Verify system has been improved, it's been streamlined, and is currently the most accurate and efficient way to check a person's legal work in the United States... It now is a program that we think works."

    [Editor's Note: Prior to Rick Perry's Dec. 3, 2014  statement above, he expressed a Con position on Jan. 29, 2010.]

    Dec. 3, 2014 - Rick Perry 



    Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, stated in his Aug. 21, 2013 op-ed for the Orange County Register titled "Tough, Universal E-Verify System Vital to Reform":

    "[T]he most important change needed before talking about amnesty is turning off the magnet of jobs.

    A big step in that direction would be the universal use of an online tool for companies to check whether new hires are legal. Called E-Verify, this free, simple system is still only voluntary; until all employers have to use it to verify the routine hiring paperwork they already file, the ability to get a job will continue to draw people to settle here illegally."

    Aug. 21, 2013 - Mark Krikorian, MA 



    Mike Coffman, US House Representative (R-CO), stated in his July 21, 2013 article for the Denver Post titled "The Time for Immigration Reform Is Now":

    "Removing the incentives for employers to hire people who are in this country illegally should be an essential element of any comprehensive proposal. To help enforce our laws, employers must have access and be required to use an electronic system, such as E-Verify, where they can quickly and accurately verify the legal status of each job applicant. Employers should be subject to stiff fines and criminal prosecution should they knowingly hire workers in this country illegally."

    July 21, 2013 - Mike Coffman 



    The US Chamber of Commerce, in a statement given by Randel K. Johnson, the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, to the US House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security on Feb. 27, 2013, available at judiciary.house.gov, stated:

    "[T]he U.S. Chamber supports E-Verify...

    The U.S. Chamber recognizes that an enhanced employment verification system with obligations by employers must be part of any immigration reform package. We accept that there must be adequate penalties for an employer’s failure to complete the employment verification process, but we insist that there be one, single national policy and uniform enforcement with safe harbors for good faith employers and an integrated, single employment verification system."

    Feb. 27, 2013 - US Chamber of Commerce 



    The National Restaurant Association stated in an Aug. 28, 2013 post on restaurant.org titled "E-Verify: A Key Element of Immigration Reform:

    "The National Restaurant Association has supported federal measures that would make use of the [E-Verify] system mandatory for all employers. This would give restaurant operators a way to show that they have made a good-faith effort to verify the work eligibility of new hires and reduce the chances of having to later dismiss employees or pay fines for hiring ineligible workers... While any employer can use E-Verify, most are not required to do so. At least 20 states require some private employers to use the system, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A federal law would override a patchwork of differing state E-Verify mandates."

    Aug. 28, 2013 - National Restaurant Association (NRA) 



    Lamar Smith, JD, US House Representative (R-TX), stated while introducing a mandatory E-Verify bill Apr. 26, 2013, in comments available at lamarsmith.house.gov:

    "Twenty-two million Americans are still struggling to find full-time employment. Meanwhile, seven million people work in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers.

    Illegal workers compete with American workers for jobs and drive down their wages. The nationwide use of E-Verify could increase wages and open up millions of jobs for unemployed and underemployed Americans. E-Verify will help ensure that jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers.

    E-Verify is easy to use and has proved effective at helping employers avoid illegal workers. It takes just a few minutes and immediately confirms 99.7% percent of work-eligible employees."

    Apr. 26, 2013 - Lamar Smith, JD 



    Barack Obama, JD, 44th US President, stated in a May 2011 White House report titled "Building a 21st Century Immigration System," available at whitehouse.gov:

    "In order to hold businesses accountable that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers, the President supports: Phasing in mandatory use of the E-Verify system over a multi-year period in conjunction with a program that requires the undocumented population to get right with the law. Employers with more than 1000 employees would be required to join the system first, with additional phases that add more employers in succeeding years. Some small businesses could be exempt from using E-Verify system..."

    May 2011 - Barack Obama, JD 



    Chuck Grassley, MA, US Senator (R-IA), in a June 24, 2011 Q&A titled "Holding Employers Accountable," posted on his official US Senate website, stated:

    "My legislation, the Accountability through Electronic Verification Act, would require all employers to check the work authorization of each of their employees through E-Verify...

    Since the system was created, improvements have been made to significantly decrease error rates. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has implemented an appeal process, created a self-check option for people to make sure their information is correct before applying for a job, and provided a photo-tool capability to improve the ability of employers to determine if the employee and the photo match. To improve the system even further, my bill requires the Social Security Administration to develop algorithms to detect anomalies such as when the same Social Security number is used multiple times...

    Jobs are the number one magnet for immigrants who illegally come to the United States. By holding employers accountable for hiring people without work authorization, it will help stem the flow of illegal immigrants into this country and help ensure that jobs are available for Americans and legal immigrants."

    June 24, 2011 - Chuck Grassley, MA 



    Elton Gallegly, US House Representative (R-CA), in his July 18, 2011 op-ed titled "Create Jobs by Making E-Verify Mandatory," published on rollcall.com, stated:

    "If Congress is serious about putting Americans back to work, it should quickly pass the Legal Workforce Act.

    The act would make it mandatory for all employers to use E-Verify — an easy-to-use, accurate, computer-based employee verification system that ensures employees have a legal right to work in the United States.

    More than 7 million people take American jobs by working illegally in the United States. Under the act, many of those 7 million jobs will be available to American workers when E-Verify is fully implemented in two years.

    What other jobs program can guarantee millions of jobs for American workers in two years?...

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data from last year show that 98.3 percent of employees were confirmed as work-authorized instantly or within 24 hours using E-Verify. A 2009 report by research firm Westat found that those eligible to work are immediately confirmed 99.5 percent of the time."

    July 19, 2011 - Elton Gallegly 



    The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) stated during testimony on NAHB's behalf by First Vice Chairman Barry Rutenberg before the US House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement on June 15, 2011, available on the Numbers USA website:

    "Over the years, as more and more states have taken it upon themselves to pass their own versions of mandatory E-verify laws, it has become increasingly obvious to our members that a single, federal requirement is the best way to address the issue to avoid confusion, and resultant compliance failures. Using E-Verify, provided it is fair, efficient, and workable, would greatly enhance employers' ability to determine who is work-authorized in the United States, thus making federal immigration law much more viable and effective..."

    June 15, 2011 - National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) 



    J.C. Watts, Jr., Chairman of the Republican Conference of the US House of Representatives from 1998-2002, wrote in a July 17, 2011 Las Vegas Review-Journal op-ed titled, "Mandatory E-Verify Would Help U.S. Workers":

    "Requiring the mandatory use of the online E-Verify system protects the American worker and also causes more and more of the 12 to 15 million illegal workers here to self-deport themselves. Experience shows that if a worker cannot explain to an employer why he does not have proper legal documentation, he simply moves to a more permissive state or back to his home country...

    E-Verify... can help get the unemployment numbers for many unemployed American citizens going in the right direction."

    July 17, 2011 - J.C. Watts, Jr. 



    CON (no)

    Nicholas Woodfield, JD, Principal and General Counsel at The Employment Law Group (Washington, DC), stated in his Dec. 1, 2014 article for the Orlando Sentinel titled "Flawed Validation Tool and Database Causes Workplace Havoc":

    "Should E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment-verification system, be mandatory for all employers? No, because E-Verify causes havoc in the workplace...

    In one year, before any national requirement, E-Verify unfairly gave employers a reason to fire almost 12,000 perfectly legitimate new hires.

    And that's just the collateral damage. E-Verify is much worse at its core task of flagging applicants who truly aren't eligible to work. The last authoritative study showed that E-Verify flubbed this mission at least half the time, failing to identify anywhere from 37 percent to 64 percent of unauthorized workers.

    If E-Verify were a commercial product, in short, no rational employer would pay to use it. It fails to identify illegal workers, and it turns away thousands of legal workers each year."

    Dec. 1, 2014 - Nicholas Woodfield, JD 



    The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) stated in an Oct. 2014 policy document titled "Agricultural Labor – E-Verify," posted on the AFBF website:

    "Requiring agricultural employers to use E-Verify without assuring that a workable guest worker program is in place could have a significant, negative impact on U.S. farm production, threatening the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers in labor-intensive agriculture...

    If the mandatory E-Verify program goes forward by itself, without providing producers a source of legal workers, it would present a potentially insurmountable challenge for many agricultural employers. Farm Bureau economists estimate that as much as $5 billion to $9 billion in annual agricultural production is at risk if the industry’s labor needs cannot be addressed."

    Oct. 2014 - American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) 



    John H. Cochrane, PhD, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, wrote in his Aug. 1, 2013 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal titled "Think Government Is Intrusive Now? Wait Until E-Verify Kicks In":

    "E-Verify is the real monster. If this part of the bill passes, all employers will be forced to use the government-run, Web-based system that checks potential employees' immigration status. That means, every American will have to obtain the federal government's prior approval in order to earn a living...

    Every tyranny silences opponents by controlling their ability to earn a living... Why are we so afraid of immigrants that we would jeopardize this most basic guarantee of our political liberties?

    Aug. 1, 2013 - John H. Cochrane, PhD 



    Rick Perry, 47th Governor of Texas (R) and 2012 US presidential candidate, stated during the Republican primary gubernatorial debate held at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas on Jan. 29, 2010:

    "You know the E-Verify is a... clearly a federal program, and speaking of the federal government, that's where the problem really lies with this issue. Washington DC have been abject failures when it comes to defending our border... E-Verify would not make a hill of beans' difference when it comes to what's happening in America today. You secure that border first, then you can talk about how to identify individuals in an immigration situation."

    [Editor's Note: After Rick Perry's Jan. 29, 2010 statement above, he expressed a Pro position on Dec. 3, 2014.]

    Jan. 29, 2010 - Rick Perry 



    Alex Nowrasteh, MSc, Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, stated in his Nov. 11, 2013 article for the Federalist titled "The Economic Costs of E-Verify":

    "An electronic employment verification system (or E-Verify, as it’s known) is widely considered to be an essential component of immigration reform. It shouldn’t be. E-Verify is an expensive and wrongheaded labor market regulation that will force every American employer to ask the federal government for permission to employ workers. To add insult to economic injury, E-Verify is also ineffective at deterring unauthorized immigration...

    In reality, E-Verify will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of legal Americans to get a job. According to a recent independent audit of E-Verify conducted by the firm Westat, between 0.7 to 0.3 percent of all E-Verify queries produced erroneous TNCs [tentative non-confirmations], meaning they were issued to legal workers. If 150 million American workers were run through E-Verify tomorrow, somewhere between 450,000 and slightly more than 1 million American workers would be notified that if they do not address the problem then they will lose their jobs. Those American [sic] would then have to correct any inconsistencies before the government gave them clearance to be employed full time. That hardly seems fair for these legal workers...

    The E-Verify mandate passed as part of the Senate’s immigration reform bill would impose around $2.1 billion in government expenditures over the course of a decade. That’s in addition to the $1.37 billion for technology upgrades and overhead that the bill mandates. Worse, it would require the hiring of 5,000 enforcement offices at a cost of approximately $230 million dollars a year, amounting to nearly $2.3 billion over the first decade of the program."

    Nov. 11, 2013 - Alex Nowrasteh, MSc 



    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated in a May 2013 white paper titled "Prove Yourself to Work: The 10 Big Problems with E-Verify," available at aclu.org:

    "In order to detect the small percentage of job seekers who are unauthorized workers, a mandatory E-Verify system creates a whole new level of intrusive government oversight of daily life—a bureaucratic 'prove yourself to work' system that hurts ordinary people...

    Perhaps the most significant problem with requiring the entire nation to obtain permission from the government when starting a job is that the government is going to make a lot of mistakes that affect innocent people. And when a bureaucratic error can prevent a person from making a living, that is an enormous problem and should not be treated lightly...

    Recent government reports make it clear that the government’s databases contain huge numbers of errors. Citizenship and Immigration Services reports that in fiscal year 2012, about 1 of every 400 cases submitted to E-Verify resulted in a TNC determination that was subsequently reversed after appeal by the worker. We have seen what many of those people likely go through to get those errors corrected. And while 1 in 400 may not sound high at first blush, in a nation of more than 300 million people and 154 million workers, that would be about 400,000 people improperly deprived of the right to make a living...

    We don’t want the United States to become a 'mother may I' society where every exercise of basic rights and life functions can be carried out only with the permission of some government bureaucracy. Unfortunately, E-Verify is one big step in that direction."

    May 2013 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 



    The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) stated in testimony on E-Verify before the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Feb. 27, 2013, delivered by Emily Tulli, JD, Policy Attorney with the NILC:

    "E-Verify... encourages bad behavior by employers. E-Verify encourages employers to misclassify workers as independent contractors and move them off the books. It also gives employers one more tool to retaliate against workers, so if a worker complains about mistreatment, the employer can decide to use E-Verify against the worker. When employers can easily abuse some workers, all American workplaces suffer.

    E-Verify employers routinely violate the program rules, and that hurts workers... 42% of workers say that they aren't notified by their employer of an E-Verify error. And if a worker doesn't know that an error exists they have no way to correct it... Because the livelihood of US citizens is at risk, even seemingly small error rates really matter. Using USCIS' own statistics, at least 50,000 US workers experienced an E-Verify error last year. And that's with 93% of employers not using the program."

    Feb. 27, 2013 - National Immigration Law Center (NILC) 



    Cathy Reisenwitz, writer and political commentator, stated in her Nov. 17, 2013 article for Reason.com titled "E-Verify Turns Work into a Privilege, and Empowers the Surveillance State":

    "The first problem with mandating E-Verify use is how much work it’s going to create for employers. According to the E-Verify user manual, a freelancer who wants to contract out work will need to become a program administrator, tasked with chores like registering new users, opening and closing accounts and adding other program administrators and users...

    The E-Verify system requires all employers to go through the entire interview, offer, negotiation and acceptance process before they are allowed to check whether any applicant is eligible to work. Of course E-Verify’s propensity to put the kibosh on the hire at the end of the process will lead employers to discriminate against non-native born workers to save themselves the expense. Any expectation otherwise stretches credulity...

    In a country still struggling out of a recession, with unemployment still too high, the last thing anyone needs is another federal requirement which will make getting hired and hiring more difficult.

    E-Verify is pretty much the definition of a solution whose drawbacks are worse than the problem it’s designed to solve. Mandating its use will make life harder for employers and employees. It will increase hiring discrimination. And it will help turn the U.S. into even more of a surveillance state."

    Nov. 17, 2013 - Cathy Reisenwitz 



    David Borris, owner and co-founder of Hel's Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, IL; Cristina McNeil, MBA, former owner of Office Web International in Boise, ID; and ReShonda Young, Operations Manager and Corporate Vice President of Alpha Express, Inc. in Waterloo, IA, stated in their May 17, 2013 Washington Post op-ed titled "On Its Own, E-Verify Places Too Heavy a Burden on Small Businesses":

    "A targeted legislative proposal to require all employers to use [E-Verify]... would come at a serious cost to small business owners, particularly if not packaged with broader immigration reform...

    [E]ven if the program's error rates are held at current levels, an estimated 156,000 authorized workers would be threatened with job loss by system errors. If error rates rise with the expansion of the program, this problem will be magnified, costing time and money for workers and business owners to fix mistakes, and taking their focus away from building businesses, serving customers, and creating jobs...

    [S]tand-alone E-Verify is simply out of touch with economic reality. Without broad reforms to modernize our immigration laws and help the 11 million aspiring Americans who live here now but in the shadows, mandatory E-Verify won’t fix our immigration problems; it will only drive more economic activity underground. The Congressional Budget Office estimates this could cut tax revenues by $17 billion over 10 years – not good for the country’s bottom line."

    May 17, 2013 - ReShonda Young 
    Cristina McNeil, MBA 
    David Borris 



    David Bier, Immigration Policy Analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute at the time of the quote, stated in his Jan. 10, 2013 op-ed titled "E-Verify: Immigration Reform's Threat to Legal Workers," published on Forbes.com:

    "E-Verify is not reliable and shifts enforcement costs onto citizens... According to E-Verify’s government audit, a national mandate would deem 1.2 million to 3.5 million legal employees... initially ineligible to work. In 2008, Intel, the computer chip maker, put its new employees through E-Verify and 12 percent were declared ineligible...

    E-Verify’s most serious threat is to privacy. The system’s guilty-until-proven-innocent approach could be applied to any activity, not just employment, and to any area of law, not just immigration law. It would be Americans’ cyber-passport that, like a regular passport, is used to prove identity and restrict access...

    E-Verify’s application has no logical limit. If the government fails to stop illegal downloads, should they require every American to verify their identity before accessing the Internet? What about monitoring gun ownership? Do not believe that E-Verify will not succumb to the same mission creep as the Social Security card, which left its original purpose in the dust long ago."

    Jan. 10, 2014 - David Bier 



    Jessica St. Pierre, a Florida-based US citizen who stated her opposition to E-Verify before the US House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on Apr. 14, 2011, wrote in her June 28, 2013 article for TheHill.com titled "The High Cost of E-Verify":

    "I am proof that E-Verify unfairly traps too many workers who have work authorization—both citizen and immigrant alike. And if it can happen to me, a U.S. citizen who was born in Florida, it can happen to anyone.

    In November 2010, I landed what I thought would be an exciting job in the telecommunications industry. I filled out routine paperwork, and expected to get started right away.

    I was shocked when the company’s HR department told me that an electronic system had flagged me as unauthorized to work in the United States. I promptly went to the Social Security Office, where I was told that there was no problem. Little did I know that the error was an administrative one that involved E-Verify, a system that I—like most American workers--knew nothing about. By the time the error was corrected, it was too late – I was already out of a job."

    June 28, 2013 - Jessica St. Pierre