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Challenge To Rep. Lamar Smith: How About A Poll On E-Verify’s Massive Flaws?

by Dara Lind on 06/03/2011 at 10:03am

Lamar SmithThe Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who fancies himself something of an expert on Latino politics, recently sent around a “Dear Colleague” linking to a Rasmussen Reports poll on workplace immigration enforcement. Smith is an ardent advocate of E-Verify and intends to introduce legislation to make it mandatory for all businesses and workers in the U.S.

According to Smith, Rasmussen found that “82% of U.S. voters think businesses should be required to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to determine if a potential employee is in the country legally. Only 12 percent disagree and oppose such a requirement.”

First, Lamar Smith’s source, Rasmussen, should be scrutinized. Nate Silver, the numbers guru who writes the blog FiveThirtyEight.com at the New York Times, has found problems with Rasmussen’s polling and counsels “extreme skepticism” in evaluating their results.

In this case, that skepticism is certainly justified, since Rasmussen’s conclusion that the public supports E-Verify didn’t match the question the pollster actually asked. The poll asked respondents:

The federal government maintains an E-Verify system which allows employers to determine the immigration status of potential employees. Before hiring a new employee, should businesses be required to check and make sure that each potential employee is in the country legally?

It didn’t explain that federal law already requires businesses to verify that employees are here legally, using either E-Verify or the paper-based I-9 system. By not explaining the current law, Rasmussen made it appear that businesses weren’t already required to verify status—the poll question created a problem that didn’t exist. And by not mentioning that employers can also use the I-9 system, Rasmussen made E-Verify look like the only solution to that imaginary “problem.” In reality, making E-Verify mandatory wouldn’t add anything to the current system—it would just take away the option to use the I-9 system. Since they didn’t tell respondents that E-Verify isn’t the only way businesses can check the status of their workers, the only thing the poll tells us is that 82% of Americans are in favor of making businesses confirm that employees are here legally—which is to say, they agree with current law. 

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