Yesterday, House Republicans, led by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), and Steve King (R-IA), unveiled the top bill on their anti-immigration agenda: a plan to make all employers in America use the deeply flawed E-Verify program to check the immigration status of their workers. There’s going to be a hearing on it today (live-tweeted here). The “Three Amigos” (on immigration) mistakenly believe that if all employers use E-verify, undocumented workers will be unable to get jobs, will pack up their lives, and deport themselves.
In reality, the mass deportation dreams of Smith & Co. will have real-life consequences for American workers, businesses and tax payers, as well as undocumented workers. It will push immigrant workers deeper into the underground economy, fail to identify undocumented workers 50% of the time, and make the broken immigration system even worse.
It’s clear that Smith, Gallegly, and King are playing politics with the issue. It’s already against the law for employers to hire undocumented workers. The Smith bill doesn’t change that; what it does is require all employers to use a flawed government system when evaluating who is legal to work. But E-Verify is simply not ready for prime time, and making the program universal and mandatory will harm U.S. workers, businesses, and taxpayers without solving the problem.
A real solution would be to require undocumented workers to register with the government, pay taxes, and work their way toward full U.S. citizenship.
Here are the real-life consequences of Lamar Smith’s deportation fantasies:
Mandatory E-Verify WILL keep hundreds of thousands of American workers from working, and WILL require millions to navigate an overburdened federal bureaucracy in order to prove eligibility. In fiscal year 2010, it’s estimated that over 80,000 workers lost their jobs due to E-Verify mistakes. Nationwide, 770,000 legal Americans who are currently working could lose their jobs if employers put them through the E-Verify system. Under the Smith proposal, up to 1.3 million people each year could be blocked from getting a new job because they were incorrectly marked as unauthorized. To keep their jobs, they would be forced to navigate the Social Security Administration — which is already overburdened and turning people away.
Mandatory E-Verify WILL burden small business owners who want to comply with the law. Small businesses have created 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years, but they would be hardest hit by E-Verify. According to Bloomberg Government, if E-Verify had been mandatory in 2010, it would have cost small businesses $2.6 billion.