-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
While Republicans have been trying to leech the credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama has upstaged them by laying out his immigration reform plan. This is a signature political issue that the Republicans have tried to make their own. However, the E-Verify program will test whether they really want to solve the problem or whether, like bin Laden, they’re more interested in maintaining the issue for its political usefulness.
The E-Verify system looks for a match between the name and SSN of the worker who applies for a job. If there’s a mismatch then the worker may be undocumented, or the worker has to contact the SSA to get the records corrected. The E-Verify program, if widely implemented, would dramatically reduce the incentive for illegal entry.
However, business hates it. The Florida Chamber of Congress has succeeded in getting mandatory E-Verify removed from a Florida immigration reform bill. Republicans are caught between their business overlords and the Tea Party.
The Florida Chamber of Congress cites out-of-date error rates and concerns over identity theft as the basis for their objection to mandatory E-Verify. Could it be there’s another reason? Maybe it’s because businesses can take advantage of the illegal’s vulnerability and pay them less than the minimum wage and violate work safety rules, as pointed out in Obama’s recent speech.
The error rates for E-Verify are steadily improving with most errors occurring due to typos and changes in names or citizenship that are not reported to the Social Security system. Workers need to get these errors fixed in order to receive their full Social Security benefits to which they are entitled.
The problem with identity theft occurs when an undocumented worker uses someone else’s (matching) name and SSN when applying for a job. That problem has been solved by something called “E-Verify Self Check” where individuals can access their status before applying for a job. The system knows whom you’ve worked for over the years and can ask the kind of questions that only the legitimate worker would be able to answer correctly. Therefore, workers can be verified and identity thieves won’t be able to verify their data.
Another problem for E-Verify is the case of Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting that is before the Supreme Court (Kagan, J., recused). At issue is a 2006 Arizona statute, the Legal Arizona Workers Act that requires all employers to participate in the E-Verify program, which is preempted by a federal law that specifically makes that system voluntary. The law was signed by then-governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano, now the Secretary of Homeland Security, the department that runs E-Verify. What you have is the Obama administration’s Solicitor General arguing against the most effective tool in the administration’s arsenal against illegal immigration.
As pointed out by Justice Ginsburg during oral arguments:
How can Arizona take a Federal resource, which the Federal Government says is voluntary except in certain circumstances, and turn it into something that’s mandatory?
The E-Verify Modernization Act of 2011 seeks to make E-Verify permanent and mandatory. It will be interesting to see if the bill suffers the same fate as the Florida legislation.