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E-Verify Has 50% Failure Rate, Throws Hundreds of Thousands of Legal Workers Out of a Job

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Yet House GOP Is Motivated by Anti-Immigrant Ideology at the Expense of American Economy

Today on Capitol Hill, 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.  The theory goes, if all employers use E-Verify, undocumented workers will be unable to get jobs and will pack up their lives and deport themselves.  Unfortunately, the mass deportation dream of Smith and crew will have real-life consequences for American workers, businesses, and taxpayers, 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. 

“Rather than working with Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform and turn undocumented workers into legal taxpayers, Smith and his allies in Congress are hell-bent on pursuing their mass deportation fantasy.  It’s outrageous that House Republicans—lead by Lamar Smith of Texas—are so beholden to anti-immigrant politics that they would advance a bill that will fail 50% of the time and place serious burdens and costs on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers.  This is just another example of business as usual in Washington: instead of focusing on real solutions to real problems, House Republicans are focusing on their next campaign,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.       

It’s clear that Smith, Gallegly, and King are playing politics with the issue, because 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, given the E-Verify system’s current error rate and the average rate of workers hired in the U.S. every year, 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 so overburdened that it turned away 3.3 million visitors to its offices in 2010 – and go through a bureaucratic process the Government Accounting Office has described as “formidable.”  
  • 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.
  • Mandatory E-Verify WILL cost taxpayers double – in cost of implementation and in lost revenues from workers going off the books. In addition to the costs of implementing and expanding a massive new government bureaucracy, E-Verify would cost taxpayers $17 billion in income and payroll tax revenue as more jobs go off the books.
  • Mandatory E-Verify WON’T keep employers from hiring undocumented immigrants. Instead, it will encourage more employers and more workers to move into the cash economy.  In Arizona, after mandatory E-Verify was implemented in 2008, government data estimates that two-thirds of new hires did not go through the system, but around it.
  • Mandatory E-Verify WON’T catch over half of the undocumented workers who go through the system. According to the government’s own statistics, E-Verify only catches 46% of undocumented immigrants who are checked through the system. The other 54% — more than half – make it through.  When a system has a 50% fail rate, it’s safe to say that it simply does not work. 
  • Mandatory E-Verify WON’T fix the broken immigration system.  Comprehensive immigration reform WILL.  According to Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda of UCLA, comprehensive immigration reform would boost the United States’ GDP by $1.5 trillion over ten years, and add up to 900,000 jobs.  It would also raise $5 billion in additional tax revenues over three years.

“Smith’s plan is based on two fantasies: one, that the E-Verify program will work, and two, that undocumented workers will pack up their lives and go home if his bill becomes law.  Now, here’s a dose of reality: this legislation will threaten Americans’ jobs, cost taxpayers billions in lost revenue, destabilize the agriculture industry, and fail to work half the time.  It’s time for House Republicans to wake up from their dream and work on a bipartisan basis to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Our country needs a real solution to the broken immigration system, not more hot air and wishful thinking,” Tramonte concluded.      

For more information about the Smith bill and its impact on workers, taxpayers, and businesses, see:

Summary of the Legal Workforce Act (NILC) http://www.nilc.org/immsemplymnt/ircaempverif/Legal-Workforce-Act-summary-2011-06-14.pdf   

Lamar Smith’s Employment Eligibility Verification System: Harmful to the Economy and Dangerous for U.S. Workers (NILC) http://www.nilc.org/immsemplymnt/ircaempverif/Legal-Workforce-Act-concerns-2011-06-14.pdf   

Legal Workforce Act of 2011 (Table of Provisions) (NILC) http://www.nilc.org/immsemplymnt/ircaempverif/Legal-Workforce-Act-table-2011-06-14.pdf


What Arizona’s Experience with Mandatory E-Verify Teaches U

Costly and Ineffective: What Arizona’s Experience with Mandatory E-Verify Teaches Us (NILC)




E-Verify Creates Burdens for Small Businesses (NILC)


Deciphering the Numbers on E-Verify’s Accuracy: What DHS’ Numbers Mean and How Well E-Verify Is Performing (IPC)


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