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Lamar Smith’s Dirty Little Secret: E-Verify Doesn’t Work

by Mahwish Khan on 09/15/2011 at 9:22am

Lamar Smith E-VerifyRep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has made passage of E-Verify a top priority for the House Republican caucus.  Smith has called E-Verify “a successful tool,” but he is asking his colleagues to overlook one key fact: E-Verify doesn’t work.

Smith repeatedly glosses over the problems with E-Verify.  In fact, the system has a very high failure rate of over 50%.  By the government’s own statistics, E-verify will only identify undocumented workers put through the system 46% of time.  The rest of the time, undocumented workers will use documents that allow them to pass through the verification system.  

It’s literally incredible that Rep. Smith is pushing a bill that will expand red tape and costs for small businesses and jeopardize the jobs of American workers, and fail to work more than half the time.  That’s exactly the type of half-baked Washington idea that voters are tired of.

Last spring during an E-Verify debate in the Florida legislature, Republican State Senator J.D. Alexander gave his account of the program, which he opposes.  Alexander is a farmer who has used E-Verify in his business and unlike Lamar Smith, he knows E-Verify first-hand.  According to Alexander, E-Verify  “has the potential of being wrong.” And, he noted, it’s “fairly expensive.”

In a column in The Hill last June, Markos Moulitsas agreed: “The punch line is that E-Verify doesn’t even work. According to a study for the Department of Homeland Security, the system failed to catch 54 percent of unauthorized workers. Why? Because “since the inception of E-Verify it has been clear that many unauthorized workers obtain employment by committing identity fraud that cannot be detected by E-Verify.” In other words, farmers would have a better chance of identifying ineligible workers by flipping a coin.

There are many problems with E-Verify. It is a Big Government nightmare and an unfunded mandate on businesses, big and small.  Most importantly, it just doesn’t work.  The 54% failure rate should stop the debate in its tracks. Instead of half-baked proposals like this one, Republicans in Congress should step up to the plate and work with Democrats to pass real, common sense immigration reform.

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