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President Obama Sees Flaws In E-Verify, Renews Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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Today, we heard an important pronouncement from President Obama at a White House press conference. The President made it clear that mandatory E-Verify without comprehensive immigration reform is unacceptable, saying:

We need to have a more balanced approach than just a verification system. 

The timely question came from Antonieta Cádiz of La Opinión, who asked President Obama whether he would veto a mandatory E-Verify bill that did not legalize undocumented workers. Watch the President’s remarks below:

In his reponse, the President once again spelled out his strong support for a comprehensive immigration reform package — one that includes “tough border security, going after employers that are illegally hiring and exploiting workers, and making sure that we also have a pathway to legal status for those who are living in the shadows right now.”  In May, the White House outlined a similar position in a “blueprint” on immigration reform, stating that the expansion of E-Verify “must be accompanied by a legalization program that allows unauthorized workers to get right with the law.” 

The President also made it clear that he is fully aware of the problems with the current E-Verify program and how the program’s faults harm U.S. workers and businesses.  He’s right to join the many voices from across the spectrum in raising these cautions.  Currently some 4% of employers – and only 2% of small businesses – use E-Verify.  Rep. Lamar Smith is currently pushing for mandatory E-Verify. His bill would force 100% of employers to use the system within three short years.  Smith, if you might recall, is one of the Three Amigos (on immigration). The other two “Amigos” are Smith’s anti-immigrant sidekicks, Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Steve King (R-IA).

Smith, who Chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have introduced mandatory E-Verify bills in their respective chambers.  Smith’s bill is on a fast track. The House is poised to take up Smith’s legislation this summer.  Smith and Grassley’s aim is to further the radical right-wing strategy dubbed by proponents as “attrition through enforcement.”  Their goal?  Nothing less than the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, an ugly fantasy that is as unrealistic as it is un-American.

What will be the impact of such a dramatic expansion of E-Verify on businesses, workers, and taxpayers?  According to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress:

  • An estimated 770,000 American workers could lose job offers due to E-Verify’s error-prone databases

  • The mandate would cost small business an estimated $2.6 billion

  • Based on a similar bill scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office in 2007, $17 billion in tax revenue would be lost over 10 years as more jobs move into the underground economy. 

Remarkably, these costs would be in exchange for a system that identifies unauthorized workers only 46% of the time.  

On E-Verify, the President gets it.