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 E-Verify page of its official website, updated Aug. 9, 2011, 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...
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working to stop unauthorized employment. By using E-Verify to determine the employment eligibility of their employees, companies become part of the solution in addressing this problem...
More than 279,000 employers, large and small, across the United States use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of their employees, with about 1,200 new businesses signing up each week.
While participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most businesses, some companies may be required by state law or federal regulation to use E-Verify. For example, most employers in Arizona and Mississippi are required to use E-Verify. E-Verify is also mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause."
[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: www.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).]
Should E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment verification system, be mandatory for all employers?
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."
Barack Obama, JD, 44th US President, stated in a May 2011 White House report titled "Building a 21st Century
"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..."
Elton Gallegly, US House Representative (R-CA), in his July 19, 2011 op-ed titled "Create Jobs by Making E-Verify Mandatory," published on www.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(3.8 MB) found that those eligible to work are immediately confirmed 99.5 percent of the time."
Lamar Smith, JD (R-TX), US House Representative and Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee, and Ken Calvert (R-CA), US House Representative and author of the E-Verify program, in their May 29, 2011 op-ed titled "The Supreme Court Gets It Right on E-Verify, Now It's Time for It to Expand Across the USA," posted on www.foxnews.com, wrote:
"In a 5-3 decision this week, the Supreme Court upheld the Arizona law requiring employers to use E-Verify to check the legal status of newly hired employees. The Supreme Court got it right—not only is the law constitutional, it is commonsense... Congress should now act to expand E-Verify across the United States.
[I]t is a free, quick and easy program that helps American employers comply with existing law and hire legal workers...
...E-Verify recently received an exceptionally high overall customer satisfaction score – 82 out of 100 [on] the American Customer Satisfaction Index scale. In comparison, the government's overall satisfaction score is 69.
The program continues to expand and improve. Last year [on Sep. 17, 2010], the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services implemented a photo matching tool. This allows an employer to view a picture of the employee – from a green card, an employment authorization document or a passport – to determine that the employee is in fact the person to whom that Social Security number or alien identification number was issued."
The US Chamber of Commerce, in a June 14, 2011 press release issued by Randy Johnson, the Chamber's Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits, stated:
"The Chamber commends Chairman Smith for introducing a new E-Verify bill that has strong preemption language for state and local laws mandating the use of E-Verify or establishing state or local employment verification schemes, mirrors the existing FAR [Federal Acquisition Regulation] rules for federal contractors using E-Verify on current workforce, and establishes a fully electronic employment verification obligation with a clear safe harbor for employers that act in good faith."
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 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, stated:
"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..."
The National Restaurant Association (NRA), in a June 15, 2011 statement to the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, given on the NRA's behalf by Craig S. Miller, Chair of the NRA from 2005-2006, wrote:
"Our members that use the program, and the head of Human Resources at the National Restaurant Association, have found E-Verify to be both cost effective and fast in helping guarantee a legally authorized workforce...
It would have been easy to ignore the real concerns of the business community with a national E-Verify mandate and simply pass a law requiring its use. It is harder to pass a responsible E-Verify mandate that accommodates the different needs of the close to eight million employers in the U.S., which are extremely different in both size and levels of sophistication.
In the National Restaurant Association's opinion, notwithstanding the few clarifications and minor changes needed, the Legal Workforce Act reaches the right balance—a broad federal E-Verify mandate that is both fast and workable for businesses of every size under practical real world working conditions."
Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist for the New York Times and author of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, wrote in his May 29, 2011 New York Times column titled "Trust but E-Verify":
"According to a recent study from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, [Arizona's mandatory E-Verify] legislation reduced Arizona's population of working-age illegal immigrants by about 17 percent, or roughly 92,000 people, in just a single year... And the swift attrition was mainly achieved through voluntary compliance: the number of employers prosecuted under the law can be counted on one hand...
By learning from Arizona... we might finally have an immigration policy worthy of the U.S.A."
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."
The Los Angeles Times, in its Mar. 8, 2010 editorial titled "E-Verify: 'E' Is for Error," stated:
"According to a recent [Dec. 2009] report by Westat(3.8 MB) , a research company that evaluated the program for the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify fails to flag illegal workers 54% of the time. The problem is identity fraud. The online program checks a worker's information against Homeland Security and Social Security databases. And if a valid Social Security number is presented, even if it's already in use, the program often recognizes it as legitimate...
Eventually, when E-Verify is working well, we can talk about whether it should be mandated so that employers can be held accountable. But for now, the focus should be on reducing the error rate. The Westat report is encouraging in some respects: Although the program used to regularly mistake legal workers for illegal ones, it now correctly evaluates documented workers 99% of the time. Still, expansion is premature. Before employers can be held accountable, they need a tool that works."
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."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a written June 15, 2011 statement to the US House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, wrote:
"The ACLU opposes a mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System (EEVS) for five reasons:
(i) it poses unacceptable threats to American workers' privacy rights by increasing the risk of data surveillance and identity theft;
(ii) data errors in Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) files will wrongly delay or block the start of employment for lawful American workers and may lead to discrimination;
(iii) it lacks sufficient due process procedures to protect workers injured by such data errors;
(iv) neither SSA or DHS are able to implement such a system and SSA's ability to continue to fulfill its primary obligations to the nation's retirees and disabled individuals would deteriorate; and
(v) it will lead to rampant employer misuse in both accidental and calculated ways."
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), in an Apr. 14, 2011 statement to the US House Committee on Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Social Security, written by Tyler Moran, NILC Policy Director, and posted on the NILC website, stated:
"E-Verify has made progress since it was first implemented, but the fact remains that the system simply is not ready for mandatory use: it would cause a minimum of $22 billion in lost tax revenue at a time when policymakers are trying to slash budgets; would cause anywhere from 1.2 million to 3 million workers to stand in line at SSA or lose their jobs at a time of 9 percent unemployment; and is unable to detect 54 percent of unauthorized workers who are run through the system.
...Eight million undocumented workers are not going to leave the country because of E-Verify; they and their employers will simply move into the underground economy, resulting in a significant loss of federal, state, and local tax revenues, including a drastic reduction in contributions to the Social Security trust fund."
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), in a July 2011 policy document posted on its official website, stated:
"Requiring agricultural employers to use E-Verify 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 will 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 we cannot address our labor needs in any immigration reform bill..."
PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) National Network, a network of faith-based community organizations, stated in its June 13, 2011 press release titled "Mandatory E-Verify Hurts Families and the Economy":
"PICO Faith leaders oppose the harmful mandatory E-verify bill that Congressman Lamar Smith introduced in the House of Representatives today...
'...It puts unnecessary burdens on employers, strains family resources and reinforces a culture based on fear and ignorance. As people of faith, we oppose the E-Verify bill if it is not a part of a broader immigration reform package that respects human dignity and family unity.' said Fr. Marc Fallon, a faith leader with the PICO National Network.
Based on studies funded by the Department of Homeland Security, it is estimated that more than 617,000 American workers would wrongly lose their jobs if E-verify becomes mandatory. This would be like every resident of Washington DC being fired over a misunderstanding."
The Center for American Progress (CAP) stated in its June 27, 2011 issue brief titled "Seen and (Mostly) Unseen: The True Costs of E-Verify," written by Philip E. Wolgin, CAP Immigration Policy Analyst, and posted on the CAP website:
"E-Verify is already in use by an estimated 4 percent of American employers, but expanding it for use by all U.S. businesses, from the mom-and-pop grocery store, to the biggest employers in the nation, presents onerous and expensive challenges...
Employers would shoulder much of the burden of implementing E-Verify if it was made mandatory for all businesses in the United States. A recent Bloomberg Government study(165 KB) found that E-Verify would have cost small businesses $2.6 billion had it been mandatory in 2010. These companies represent 99.7 percent of all employers, and have created 64 percent of net new jobs over the past decade and a half, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. With an unemployment rate at 9.1 percent in May 2011, and the economic recovery of small businesses still precarious, does it really make sense to burden our nation's jobs creators with an additional $2.6 billion per year?"