The Insidious Dangers of E-Verify

Houston immigration lawyer, Annie Banerjee, is concerned that mandatory employer participation in Basic Pilot/E-Verify will hurt workers, businesses, and the struggling U.S. economy.

Basic Pilot/E-Verify started out with good intentions, a bit like the Road to Perdition. The intent of the voluntary Internet-based program is to let employers electronically verify information workers present to prove their employment eligibility. This occurs by accessing information in cumbersome databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. As of January 8th 2009, 106,814 employers were enrolled in Basic Pilot/E-Verify – slightly more than 1% of the approximately 7.4 million employers in the United States. That would be insignificant enough, but, adds Ms. Banerjee, “Only about half of the enrolled employers actually use the program.”

Still, Basic Pilot/E-Verify is often described as the “panacea” that will curb the hiring of unauthorized workers, according to Ms. Banerjee. “I see difficulties traceable to it every day, many problems that affect workers and businesses that administrators are hesitant to speak about,” she asserts, “It’s no magic bullet.” As a volunteer program that employers can choose to be involved in, its consequences have been relatively benign since 1997 when it was first implemented; but, as a mandatory requirement for employers, “I predict some real pitfalls,” Ms. Banerjee warns.

Even the benign results reported so far have been less than encouraging for making it mandatory, however benign the bureaucratic intentions might be. Numerous entities, including the Government Accountability Office, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, and a research firm under contract with the Department of Homeland Security, have determined Basic Pilot/E-Verify to have significant weaknesses. “It relies too much on government databases that have all kinds of error rates built in to them,” Ms. Banerjee asserts, “and sometimes it’s been proven that employers selectively interpret Basic Pilot/E-Verify to do bad things to good workers.” An example is Carmen, a U.S. citizen. She applied for a position with a temporary agency in California only to be turned away because E-Verify was unable to confirm her work authorization. “If this program is made mandatory, it might make the struggling economy even more of a struggle for everybody,” Ms. Banerjee concludes.

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