National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Pulling the trigger on E-verify won’t deliver a magic bullet

July 17, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas


Photo by DeusXFlorida

Today’s editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal point to the government’s unsettling continuation of the Bush Administration’s push to expand the flawed E-Verify program. E-Verify is an voluntary internet-based program intended to allow employers to verify worker eligibility by accessing error-prone government databases maintained by DHS and SSA. We have watched, time and time again, as restrictionist members of Congress have tried to attach E-Verify expansions and mandates to any moving piece of legislation. However, many were shocked – as was the Wall Street Journal – when the Obama administration announced last week that it won’t be breaking from Bush-era tactics and instead will make the program mandatory for all federal contractors.


So what’s wrong with E-Verify?


For starters, it forces American workers to put their job security at the hands of a government database that is filled with errors and that makes correcting these errors very difficult.  The shortcomings of the database have been highlighted not only by immigrant rights groups but by labor, business and the government itself. As reported by the Wall Street Journal,


[L]ast year Intel reported finding errors in 12% of responses to its queries. Other independent analyses have found that database error rates are 30 times higher for foreign-born workers than for natives, and nearly 100 times higher for naturalized citizens.


Other reports documenting the limitations of E-Verify include 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.


E-Verify not only ensnares U.S. citizens in its database errors but it doesn’t keep undocumented workers from getting a job. This phenomenon was most widely reported in the Swift meatpacking plant raids [GM1] from several years ago.  The Journal continues,


A bigger problem with E-Verify is that it doesn't catch identify fraud. An illegal alien using legitimate documents that don't belong to him can go undetected. So in addition to mistakenly rejecting people who are authorized to work, the system also confirms workers it shouldn't. Several government raids on businesses in recent years have resulted in the arrests of thousands of illegal workers whom E-Verify had approved.


… E-Verify and national ID cards, even working as intended, can't prevent underground employment, but such policies are guaranteed to swell the ranks of those being paid off-the-books.

Blame the employers, July 16, 2009



A program that doesn’t achieve its intended purpose but instead misidentifies legally authorized workers —including U.S. citizens--  should not be expanded or made mandatory. Imposing mandatory E-verify on a nation which relies on 7 million undocumented workers without a legalization program will only funnel more revenues and bodies into the underground economy. E-Verify alone can’t solve our immigration problems, only comprehensive immigration reform can do that.

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