In the debate over comprehensive immigration reform, one of the most-discussed mechanisms to reduce the rate of illegal immigration has been E-Verify. E-Verify is an internet-based system that collects information on employees’ legal status to ensure that illegal immigrants are not being employed. It’s generally regarded as the best and most cost-effective way to force employers to stop hiring illegals and discourage them from immigrating here in the first place.
But not everyone likes E-Verify. In particular, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has put out a list of problems that it considers particularly worrisome:
- Program errors: Even with an error rate of less than 1%, hundreds of thousands of legal workers will get caught up in bureaucratic limbo trying to prove their right to work at the Social Security Administration.
- Employer conscription: E-Verify basically outsources the enforcement (and cost) of immigration law to the private sector. It will cost small businesses over $2.6 billion per year to comply, hurting wages and job growth.
- Discriminatory impact: E-Verify is particularly prone to errors among young workers, women who change their name, Hispanics with multiple surnames, naturalized citizens, and legal immigrants. Fear of added costs due to these errors incentivizes employers to avoid these groups when hiring.
- Identity theft: This program will create massive demand for stolen identities. Indeed, the GAO has already found that 50% of unauthorized hires slipped through E-Verify for exactly this reason. Moreover, E-Verify will create a treasure trove for identity hackers, who can find lots of personal information, including Social Security Numbers.
- National ID: E-Verify will collect names, addresses, work histories, worksites, legal statuses, and much else into a single system. It even includes driver records and biometrics like pictures and physical descriptions. Without limits, it could monitor access to basically any information about an individual based on any criteria.
CEI thinks that these problems make the program irredeemably flawed, although they also propose reforms that could mitigate the effects of each one. On the whole, I’m not convinced that these issues make E-Verify unworkable (particularly if CEI’s reforms are added), and moreover, I’ve yet to see an alternative way to keep illegal immigrants out that seems feasible. What do you think? Is E-Verify worth the costs?