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Using Facts to Show the Flaws in E-Verify and to Rebut the Smith/Gallegly Op-ed

by Mahwish Khan on 06/14/2011 at 4:43pm

Los Angeles TimesYesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed from Representatives Lamar Smith and Elton Gallegly, and we posted our take on it here. To make a long story short, let’s just say that we weren’t impressed by this missive from the two masterminds behind the GOP’s mass deportation (of immigrants) strategy. Their whole “enforcement only” approach is all about tightening the screws on immigrants while blocking any hopes they might have of coming forward and applying for legal status.

Those two are on a path that will damage the American economy — particularly the agricultural industry.  Today, Smith & Co. revealed their plans on E-Verify, a government mandate (one of the few that Smith and Gallegly love) that is also a very flawed program. Though they’ll vouch that the system is a “successful tool for employers,” the truth is that E-verify will kill jobs.

Today, the Los Angeles Times has a rebuttal from Raul A. Reyes, who actually uses facts to deconstruct the Smith/Gallegly spin:

Smith and Gallegly write that E-Verify “quickly confirms 99.5% of work-eligible workers.” What they do not say is that the program fails more than half the time at detecting illegal workers. A 2009 study by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found that E-Verify cleared 54% of undocumented workers to work.  

Smith and Gallegly cite a Rasmussen poll reporting that 82% of likely voters thought businesses should be required to use E-Verify. The New York Times’ Nate Silver, however, rightly counsels “extreme skepticism” when reviewing polls by Rasmussen Reports. In this case, Rasmussen simply asked people if employers should be required to certify that their employees are legal. This is, in fact, already law. I doubt most Americans would want to be forced into a new government program to get and keep a job.

Citing a study by the Public Policy Institute of California, Smith and Gallegly claim that Arizona’s mandatory use of E-Verify has reduced the state’s illegal immigration population. They omit one of the institute’s key finding: Arizona’s use of E-Verify has pushed significant numbers of undocumented workers into the informal economy. Instead of going home, illegal workers have shifted to cash-only transactions, depriving the state of much-needed tax revenue. Is this a policy goal worthy of expanding to all 50 states?   

“It is crucial that we promote policies that help grow our economy and increase job opportunities for Americans and legal immigrants,” write Smith and Gallegly. I agree. But the National Immigration Law Center estimates a national rollout of E-Verify would result in the loss of about 770,000 jobs.  Based on calculations using known error rates for selected employers, the NILC estimates that between 1.2 million and 18.5 million workers would have to consult with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to correct their records, a task the Government Accountability Office has called “formidable.” Almost anyone could be declared ineligible to work: those who have married, divorced or changed their names; legal immigrants and naturalized citizens with paperwork issues; or those unlucky enough to be victims of clerical errors. So much for promoting job growth. 

E-Verify isn’t about creating jobs. It’s about mass deportation. A program as flawed as E-Verify shouldn’t make it through either body in Congress, but Smith and Gallegly seem determined to fast track it, having scheduled a hearing tomorrow and a possible mark-up next week. But it’s no wonder that Gallegly and Smith should want it done ASAP. The more time people have to study E-Verify, the worse it looks, and the less chance it has of passing.

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