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Business Leaders & Conservatives Agree – Forced E-Verify a Disaster

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Opposition Buzzwords Include: Costly, Ineffective, Bureaucratic, Job Killing, Big Government Overreach 

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) continues to insist that his forced E-Verify legislation would be a good thing for the U.S. economy and U.S. job seekers.  However, a growing number of business owners and independent experts are voicing strong disagreement.  Perhaps most troubling for Lamar Smith and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has introduced a similar bill in the Senate, are the sharp criticisms from their fellow conservatives and leading libertarian figures.  To recap from recent news articles:

  • Business Owners Agree – A Costly, Job Killing Plan:  A Miami Herald article entitled “Florida Business Leaders Oppose E-Verify Immigration Bill” highlights the pushback from a variety of business sectors to Smith and Grassley’s mandatory E-Verify plan.  For example, Florida State Senator J.D. Alexander, also a citrus grower, noted that a state version of E-Verify, “could have wrecked the state’s farming, hotel and construction industries because it would make it difficult to find workers since few U.S. citizens want those jobs” [Miami Herald paraphrasing of Alexander’s remarks.]  A Houston Chronicle article similarly highlights the opposition to Smith and Grassley’s scheme from three leading economic sectors – agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing.  Javier Palomarez of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimated that the bills would cost Hispanic small business owners a $147 per inquiry cost for potential hires – a major financial burden.  Palomarez stated, “This is not about civil rights for us, it’s about business.”
  • Conservatives and LIbertarians Reject Lamar Smith’s Plans:  Prominent conservatives are also questioning the program’s job killing potential and the toll incurred by forcing an untested and bureaucratic government program onto millions of business owners without regard to the cost of implementation or the program’s end effectiveness.  A recent Congressional Quarterly story captured several of the themes voiced by conservative opposition.  Jim Harper of the Cato Institute stated that an E-Verify mandate “would not reduce illegal immigration but rather push undocumented workers into the shadows.” Alex Nowrasteh of the Competitive Enterprise Institute pushed back against Lamar Smith’s claims about the program’s “effectiveness,” noting that “there will be over a million workers a year who will not be able to be hired because of E-Verify’s errors.”  And former congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) stated, “This is an issue that should be bringing together those on the right and the left, similar to our efforts several years ago to rein in some of the abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act, for example.”
  • Georgia’s Rotten Agriculture Industry – A Cautionary Tale:  Georgia’s adoption of a state version of E-Verify is already having major negative effects on the state’s agriculture industry – yet Lamar Smith and Chuck Grassley want to do for the nation what Georgia is already experiencing.  According to Charles Hall, director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Assocation, the law is “a tremendous burden to our farmers.”  Over the weekend, CBS News traveled to Georgia, documenting footage of crops rotting due to labor shortages and hearing the impact on the businesses of growers like blackberry farmer Gary Paulk.  Pointing to a corner of the family farm where twenty acres of blackberries are rotting, Paulk said, “This is a healthy field.  And it should have been picked.  But there’s nobody here.”
  • Studies Document the Economic Toll of Forced E-Verify:  Mandatory E-Verify would be a massive unfunded mandate and tax on our nation’s small businesses.  A series of recent studies have provided specific documentation for just how costly Lamar Smith and Chuck Grassley’s proposal would be.  For example, Bloomberg documented that mandatory E-Verify would cost small businesses an estimated $2.6 billion to implement.  That’s $2.6 billion businesses have to spend on regulation, not job creation.  New analysis by Stuart Anderson with the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that forced E-Verify “would make the American workplace less free, ensnare U.S. workers in government agency errors, expand the size and role of government and is likely to be ineffective in reducing the illegal immigration population in the United States.”  Additionally, mandatory E-Verify would be a job-killer for 770,000 Americans and force millions more to spend time and money fighting with a government bureaucracy just to be able to work.  Given the E-Verify system’s current error rate and the average rate of workers hired in the U.S., up to 3.6 million authorized workers would be forced to get their records corrected by a government agency or risk losing their jobs every year.  Remarkably, these costs would be in exchange for a system that identifies unauthorized workers only 46% of the time.  According to Westat’s analysis of E-Verify, the program fails to identify those working illegally more than half the time.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “Let me get this straight – the program doesn’t work, is a costly bureaucratic nightmare for businesses, will destroy agriculture in this country and drive food prices up, and is unpopular across the ideological spectrum…but other than that, it’s great, right?  Only ideologues like Lamar Smith and Chuck Grassley could see the mounting evidence and outcry against their forced E-Verify scheme and conclude it’s good for the economy and the country.  We hope that sensible members of both parties will recognize what Smith and Grassley are willfully unable to acknowledge – it’s better to let this legislation die than kill our nation’s farms, expand red tape and costs for small businesses, and fail to solve the problem of illegal immigration.” 

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.