E-Verify: The GOP Model For National Reform?

With Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Lamar Smith on the verge of releasing legislation that would propose to make E-Verify mandatory Ross Douthat, in his Sunday editorial,  took the idea of a mandatory E-Verity a step further.

Douthat also saw the Supreme Court Decision on the Legal Arizona Workers act as a reason to move forward with a national E-Verify system:

The E-Verify law was never as polarizing as last year’s police-powers legislation, but it still attracted plenty of opposition. Arizona business interests called it unfair and draconian. (An employer’s business license is suspended for the first offense and revoked for the second.) Civil liberties groups argued that the E-Verify database’s error rate is unacceptably high, and that the law creates a presumptive bias against hiring Hispanics.

There are of course problems with assertion, mainly that E-Verify is riddled with errors, a GAO Report noted for FY 2009:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said 76 percent of name-related Tentative Non-Confirmations (TNCs)  were issued to citizens (i.e. there is a mismatch in the name submitted for verification and SSA and DHS databases, such as misspellings, name changes, and errors associated with having multiple surnames). 
  • If E-Verify were made mandatory, GAO reported that the agencies estimate there would be 60 million queries per year, and 164,000 citizen and non-citizen new hires would receive a name-related TNC each year. 
  • If the entire existing workforce were required to be verified, the number of TNCs would be substantially greater.  GAO has found that workers often face significant challenges in resolving erroneous TNCs.

Despite these problems Douthat sees E-Verify as a way forward on reforming our immigration system:

Advocates for “comprehensive” reform, the holy grail of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans alike, have long implied that it’s essentially impossible to prevent illegal immigrants from finding their way to eager employers. Instead, they argue, we have no choice but to ratify the status quo — i.e., mass low-skilled immigration from Mexico and Central America — by creating a vast new guest-worker program and offering citizenship to illegal immigrants already here. So far, though, Arizona’s E-Verify law seems to be providing a strong counterpoint to this counsel of despair.

Douthat does give credit where credit is due, and notes that the Obama Administration is stepping up prosecutions on employers, he also sees this as a way to do away with giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. The problem with this construct is, even if E-Verify worked well enough to detect all undocumented immigrants it would still not provide a way to remove them all in a cost effective manner. With the House gearing up to move on legislation making E-Verify mandatory every where, it is increasingly looking like E-Verify and enforcement legislation are the only tools which the GOP will utilize to fix our broken immigration system.