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Rep. Mike Honda: E-Verify Hurts American Workers From Getting the Jobs They Need

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Mike HondaEditor’s Note: E-Verify has finally arrived, and the dangers — if it’s passed — would soon be evident. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is holding a markup of his jobs-killing bill on Thursday, and opposition is mounting.

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15), Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)’s immigration caucus, wrote a “Dear Colleague” letter to his fellow house members about the dangers of e-verify. He highlights that this mandate would cost Americans their jobs (770,000 of them) and crush small businesses.

Following is the letter from Rep. Mike Honda.

Dear Colleague:

Next week the Judiciary Committee will mark-up H.R. 2164, Chairman Smith’s Legal Workforce Act, which would make E-Verify mandatory. E-Verify is an internet-based system that allows an employer to determine whether an employee is legally authorized to work in the United States and is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

A functioning and efficient employment verification system is necessary to ensure workers have authorization to work. However, the current E-Verify system suffers from serious privacy, civil liberties, budgetary and technological concerns. Requiring the use of E-Verify will prevent millions of American and work authorized foreign workers from getting jobs and even job opportunities.

Independent evaluation of the E-Verify Program by Westat Corporation submitted to DHS in December 2009 indicated that “foreign-born workers are more likely than U.S.-born workers to receive TNCs (Tentative Non-Confirmations), thereby subjecting a greater percentage of work-authorized foreign-born workers to potential adverse actions arising from the E-Verify process.” Furthermore, the report found the erroneous TNC rate for workers who were eventually found to be work authorized was approximately 20 times higher for foreign-born workers than for U.S.-born workers (2.6 percent versus 0.1) in April through June 2008.  According to the report:

One likely reason for the higher rates for foreign-born workers, in addition to those noted above for noncitizens, is that employers are more likely to make mistakes when entering foreign-sounding names than in entering names with which they may be more familiar, causing more nonmatches during the verification process for foreign-born workers. Additionally, despite instructions to the contrary, many foreign-born workers may list their date of birth in day-month order, resulting in nonmatches on that variable.

Clearly a mandatory E-Verify system would harm the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, which includes more than 8 million foreign-born lawful workers, and unless and until this disproportionate impact can be addressed, we must oppose any effort to expand the E-Verify program. Furthermore, many AAPIs will experience difficulties in contesting and resolving TNCs because of language barriers, since nearly 50% of the AAPI community speaks English less than very well – and this is on top of the time and cost it can take to resolve a TNC.

At a time when many Americans are desperate for jobs, we cannot put roadblocks up that will hurt workers from getting the jobs they need by expanding E-Verify. I urge my colleagues to oppose H.R. 2164.