As reported recently in the Washington Post, nationwide implementation of E-Verify is on the agenda of several House Republicans in the first session of the 112th Congress. E-Verify is an electronic system that allows employers to run the information of potential employees through federal databases to confirm it and therefore identify people who are not legally authorized to work. The House Judiciary Committee’s immigration panel will hold a hearing on E-Verify this coming Thursday.
Proponents of E-Verify argue that the program would reduce the number of undocumented immigrants currently in the American workforce, while also allowing for a more streamlined and less cumbersome process for employers to verify their employees’ work authorization. House Republicans argue that undocumented workers are taking jobs that would otherwise go to legal workers.
Despite these arguments, problems with E-Verify are multiple. First, because of easily accessible false Social Security numbers, the program fails to identify many undocumented immigrants. Likewise, errors and employer misuse could mean that U.S. citizens and legal workers are denied jobs. Additionally, without comprehensive immigration reform, employers will continue to hire workers “under the table”, and may, in fact, be encouraged to do so with the implementation of E-Verify. Tellingly, for the above reasons, and also due to the expense of running E-Verify, many businesses strongly oppose its continued expansion.
E-Verify simply does not guarantee a legal work force, nor does will it provide more jobs to American workers. For example, despite the availability of a guest worker program for agricultural workers, nearly three in four farm jobs are filled by undocumented immigrants. Craig J. Regelbrugge, vice president of the American Nursery & Landscape Association aptly identified the repercussions of the program to the Washington Post: “Every lowly, backbreaking farm-working job sustains three jobs in the non-farm economy . . . What Congress needs to know is we have 1.6 million dedicated farmworkers, and if they go away, we will lose several million American jobs upstream and downstream. We happen to think that is too high a price.”
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