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E-Verify would not preserve jobs, no matter how many times Lamar Smith says so

March 04, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) continues his crusade to undermine efforts to fix our dysfunctional immigration system.  Like many other restrictionists, he is quick to show what he is against — against providing health care for legal immigrant children, against speedy economic recovery with new burdens on businesses and workers through mandatory use of the flawed E-Verify program— but what solutions is he for?


The closest answer comes from a series of opinion pieces sent to newspapers around the country, all with a “fear your immigrant neighbor” framework.  In The Washington Times last month, Rep. Lamar Smith, after an extensive comparison of immigrant workers to burglars, wrote:


E-Verify … [is] a sure way to protect jobs for U.S. citizen and legal immigrant workers alike, and ensure their jobs aren't stolen by illegal immigrants.


…E-Verify immediately confirms 99.4 percent of work-eligible employees. …Congress should not just extend E-Verify; it should mandate the program for all businesses with more than five employees and make it permanent. —Smith: Keep E-Verify System, February 8, 2009


At first glance, one might believe all the functional benefits from mandatory implementation of E-Verify.  Unfortunately for Rep. Smith, a close examination of the program discloses an inconvenient truth.  Jim Harper from the CATO Institute, a public policy research institute, exposes the reality behind these numbers:


[T]he DHS mantra of 99.5 percent accuracy was debunked long ago. The government doesn’t actually know the status of the 5.3% of workers that the system bounces out, an issue the Christian Science Monitor explored last summer.


I examined the numbers in detail here, also last summer. The 0.5% error rate that DHS acknowledges is the known error rate. Others bounced out of the system DHS assumes to be illegal aliens.  This is almost certainly wrong, and the program is denying legal workers the ability to earn a living, as the Christian Science Monitor reported.— The Washington Times and Debunked Statistics, February 27, 2009


Despite multiple reports documenting the shortcomings of E-Verify - including an independent study commissioned by USCIS highlighting the high error rate of E-Verify database, a GAO report identifying vulnerabilities to employer fraud and misuse, and a CBO report estimating a decrease in federal revenues by $17.3 billion over 10 years due to the number of workers leaving the formal economy and working in the untaxed underground economy – some Members of Congress continue to push for a program that is not yet ready for primetime.


In a recent opinion piece for Politico, Rep. Smith argues that immigrant advocates are engaging in “stealth legislative efforts” to allow immigrant works to keep working at “the expense of American workers” (Diligence helps resist stealth amnesty, March 2, 2009).


Yet he fails to address the unintended consequences to legal workers by the mandatory implementation of E-Verify.  Again, Jim Harper provides insight into the troublesome impact of expanding this employment verification program:


“[W]e must consider the error rate in federal government databases. In December 2006, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General estimated that the agency’s “Numident” file—the data against which Basic Pilot checks worker information—has an error rate of 4.1 percent.  Every error resulted in Basic Pilot’s providing incorrect results


At that rate, 1 in every 25 new hires would receive a tentative nonconfirmation.  At 55 million new hires each year this rate produces about 11,000 tentative nonconfirmations per workday in the United States — a little more than 25 people per congressional district, each day of the working week, all year long.” — Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka's Solution to Illegal Immigration, March 6, 2008


During these tough economics times, the country seeks leadership from Congress to get back on our feet, create more jobs and stimulate the economy.  Expanding a program that would cost U.S. citizens and legal workers their jobs is not only an impractical band-aid solution to our immigration troubles, but it would further slow our economic recovery.

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