Immigration Fight Simmered During Stimulus Negotiations

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Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 6:00 am


Among the many provisions of the $800–plus billion stimulus bill that were hotly debated and horse-traded behind closed doors, one that remained largely under the radar through the negotiations would have forced employers receiving stimulus money to use a controversial federal computer system to verify that all of its employees are legal U.S. workers. Although preliminary indications are that the requirement did not make it into the final version, the battle over E-Verify is far from over.

When it came to the stimulus bill, advocates on both sides of the issue fought hard behind the scenes. Many anti-illegal immigration groups favor the system, run jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. E-verify allows employers to electronically submit Social Security numbers for new hires and existing employees. If there is a match, the employee is considered eligible to work. If not, the employee and the employer have to go through various procedures to try to verify eligibility for employment. Supporters say that requiring all employers spending federal money to use the system is critical to ensuring that the stimulus creates jobs for legal U.S. workers, not for illegal immigrants. But immigrants’ rights groups have pushed back hard, saying that E-Verify is a cumbersome system riddled with flaws and based on inaccurate databases that can all too easily destroy legal U.S. workers’ ability to get or keep their jobs.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

“A lot of people look at E-verify as strictly an immigration enforcement tool,” said Michelle Waslin, Senior Policy Analyst at the Immigration Policy Center. “But what people don’t understand is that it would impact every single person who ever worked in the [United States]. Every single person who gets a job would have to be run through the system, which has a lot of errors. And employers don’t always use it correctly. So there could be very bad consequences for us citizens and legal workers.”

Supporters in the House, led by Rep. Jack Kingston, (R-Ga.), were able to pass an amendment requiring employers who receive stimulus money to use E-Verify in the House version of the bill. Although Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) had said they would introduce it in the Senate, they never did.

“It is critical that the stimulus legislation include provisions to require the use of E-Verify when hiring workers to fill jobs created by the proposal,” Sessions and Nelson wrote in a letter on January 29 to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell. “The inclusion of such a provision will be a key factor as we evaluate the merits of the stimulus package and gauge our support.”

Opponents of the system say the Social Security Administration has an error rate of more than 4 percent in its databases, which E-Verify relies on, translating to almost 18 million errors that could affect an employee’s work eligibility.

They also note that employers will have to register for the program, train their Human Resources staff to use it and require them to take an exam verifying they’re qualified. And so far the federally-administered program remains very small, with only about 100,000 users.

“There are 7.4 million employers in the country,” Waslin said. “Is the system ready to take on this huge increase?”

But groups such as the Federation for Immigration Reform, which bills itself as seeking “to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest” vehemently advocated for including E-Verify in the stimulus bill. And yesterday, they said that even if E-Verify isn’t required by the stimulus bill, they’ll press for its inclusion in other legislation, or as a standalone bill.

“Both President Obama and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi said we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the effective and necessary,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the group. “We have millions of people in this country working illegally. Far more people will lose their jobs due to illegal aliens than could lose it due to an error in the system.”

Mehlman cites a statistic provided by the Department of Homeland Security that says that “approximately 96.1 percent of qualified employees are cleared automatically by E-Verify, and 99.6 percent of all work-authorized employees are verified without receiving a tentative nonconfirmation or having to take any type of corrective action.”

In other words, Mehlman said, “the vast majority of the discrepancies that are flagged by E-Verify are rectified within 24 to 72 hours and are most often associated with things like name changes as a result of marriage.”

But the anecdotal evidence suggests more serious problems. At a Congressional hearing in 2007, for example, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, told the story of her own legislative counsel, Traci Hong. When a government agency used E-verify, Hong showed up as ineligible to work in the United States. Hong had to make “six separate trips” to the personnel office and to the Social Security Administration, according to Lofgren, to prove that she was a naturalized U.S. citizen. “Others might have given up,” Lofgren told USA Today.

And a study conducted by Westat, a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security, although finding overall employer satisfaction with the program, received a long list of complaints from employers it surveyed. These included that an applicant “with a good authorization card does not initially pass,” the system “doesn’t have current information,” the computer “shows nonconfirmation” even after the employee has gone to the Social Security agency and been told they’d cleared up the problem. Employers cited problems particularly “for new employees on a specific visa type, refugees and employees who have obtained US citizenship.”

In fact, the study found that the error rate for foreign-born U.S. citizens was almost 10 percent, and that employers often terminated or didn’t hire people whose information was initially unconfirmed, rather than allow the employee or applicant to try to fix the problem.

“You’re talking about a significant number of people and a system that doesn’t have provisions in place to allow them to fix their data,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s legislative office, which worked with a coalition of immigration rights groups to oppose the inclusion of E-verify in the stimulus bill. “There’s no appeals process. With an organization like the SSA that’s already dealing with huge backlogs from people not getting disability payments; this is the last thing we need.”

“The stimulus bill designed to put money into the economy quickly and efficiently. Instead, they’re requiring that money pass through a broken-down bureaucracy that hasn’t worked in a pilot program,” Fredrickson said.

Although the E-verify requirement appears to be popular among many Republicans and some Democrats in the House, not surprisingly, it has strong opponents in the business community. Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal have weighed in against it.

On Monday, the Journal’s editorial board noted that although President Bush had issued an executive order that would have required all federal contractors to use E-Verify starting next month, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has delayed its implementation until May 21, “to see what needs to be done to increase the capacity for the E-Verify system.”

The Journal wrote: “If the Obama Administration is concerned that the program will buckle under the demands of 168,000 or so federal contractors, E-Verify certainly doesn’t belong in a stimulus package that would require the system to determine the job eligibility of tens of millions of new hires.”

The Journal also noted that the E-Verify system is vulnerable to identify fraud, since a job applicant using someone else’s social security number (and a fake card) would not be detected by the system.

As governor of Arizona, Napolitano signed into law the Arizona Legal Workers Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and requires all employers in the state to use E-Verify beginning Jan. 1, 2008. However, The Arizona Republic reports that by the end of September, only about 22,000 of the approximately 150,000 employers in the state had signed up to use the system.

“Many people still see this as a magic bullet,” said Waslin. “There’s this sense that we must be very tough on immigration. We understand that our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it. But the way to do that is to have a real constructive rational conversation about fixing the immigration system. Not a proxy fight on every bill.”

“If you look at the restrictionists, they’ll blame immigrants for everything from the economy to global warming,” continued Waslin. “We need to have a more constructive conversation.”

Categories & Tags: Congress| Immigration| Slot 1/Top Stories|

Comments

20 Comments

The Washington Independent » Immigration Fight Simmered During … | ozsq.com
Pingback posted February 12, 2009 @ 6:56 am

[...] The Washington Independent » Immigration Fight Simmered During … [...]


jc
Comment posted February 12, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

Employers should verify EVERY potential employee to make sure they are here legally.
I feel that ANY employer who hires illegals is undermining American workers and our national security.
Yes, it really is as simple as that.


Richard Bond
Comment posted February 12, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

In fact, the study found that the error rate for foreign-born U.S. citizens was almost 10 percent,

Legal immigrant citizens in lesser skilled occupations are the people who are most in competition with the undocumented. It should not be so easy on the legal immigrants that a program which limits their competition from the undocumented does not cause them any problems. They can get through while the undocumented have a harder time after being snagged.


24AheadDotCom
Comment posted February 12, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

For more, see this, which has more on the Westat study. As for the quote sources, they're going to say anything and do most anything in order to support illegal immigration. In the case of the ACLU, that goes as far as collaborting with the Mexican government. And, Lofgren is an immigration lawyer.

No doubt some people go through trouble at the DMV. That doesn't mean we should just hand out DLs and registration to anyone who asks.

On the wider issue, eVerify wouldn't be necessary if people were willing to go to politicians' public appearances and press them on this issue with difficult questions. If politicians knew they couldn't get away with supporting illegal immigration it would eventually be greatly reduced.


DrGeneNelson
Comment posted February 12, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

While it is laudable that this issue was covered in this article, most of the space in this article is dedicated to illegal alien advocates and/or the “cheap labor lobby” which includes the WSJ, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AILA, and similar entities.

For American citizens, who will paying the bill for the stimulus, E-Verify is a non-issue with extremely high accuracy. E-Verify is very good at detecting illegal aliens, as the statistics show.

John Kass wrote a more balanced article regarding this issue on 11 February 2009 in the Chicago Tribune, “Democrats undercut aid for U.S. workers” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/c…


Stimulus bill and immigration « Later On
Pingback posted February 12, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

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The Washington Independent » Immigration Fight Simmered During … « Immigration
Pingback posted February 12, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

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Eric Yendall
Comment posted February 13, 2009 @ 1:52 am

” Employers should verify EVERY potential employee to make sure they are here legally.
I feel that ANY employer who hires illegals is undermining American workers and our national security.
Yes, it really is as simple as that.”

No, it is not as simple as that.

Do you want to turn the country into a nation of informers and Government agents, like Eastern Europe under the Soviets? Another East Germany? It is not the job of the citizen or employer to investigate possible crimes. Where do you want this to stop? With your neighbor snooping through your garbage to root-out possible crimes and misdemeanors for reporting to the authorities? The employer's responsibility ends when provided with the appropriate documents by the employee. Unless they are obviously fraudulent he has no right to question them. Knowingly employing illegal alien is one thing; vigilanteism and doing the governments' work for it is another.


24AheadDotCom
Comment posted February 13, 2009 @ 9:45 am

Checking whether someone is eligible for employment is just a tiny little bit different from snooping through their trash.

OTOH, those who support lawlessness will never get their way. Instead, what will happen is they'll just engender a crackdown, and that's when you get the trash-snooping. Those who claim to support freedom are actually serving the interests of those who want even more control over our daily lives.


morrisray001
Comment posted February 13, 2009 @ 10:17 am

The E-Verify system has no place in this economic stimulus debate. When the immigration system has been fixed and by that I mean an immigration reform system has been put in place there may be a place for a system such as E-verify. Not now though when we have millions of employers who are not a part of the program. You only have to read the comments to understand that the majority of those who have responed have no knowledge of what we derive from immigration or they are members of the small vocal group who against any and only immigration.
Your article is well written.


lowwall
Comment posted February 13, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

I manage a small business (6 employees). When I was doing my W-2s online at the SSA website this year, I looked into E-Verify. Merely signing up for it required so much effort that I didn't go through with it. Larger companies with dedicated HR staffs might not have a problem, but requiring the use of E-verify as it is currently constituted puts an unreasonable burden on small owner-run businesses. And that's exactly where the bulk of new jobs are likely to come from.


Karen
Comment posted February 17, 2009 @ 11:17 am

There is NOTHING wrong with our immigration laws EXCEPT our government does NOT enforce it ! Such a shame that LaRaza, Chamber of Commerce and Mecha rules our government because we have such wimpy politicians in office. Of course, one could ignore Soros and his cult of shame but like I said, our politicians are not working for America, its Constitution and laws.


Buzzm1
Comment posted February 17, 2009 @ 11:44 am

CALL FOR MANDATING E-VERIFY FOR ALL EMPLOYERS, AND ALL EMPLOYEES.

WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO ALLOW ILLEGALS TO TAKE, OR RETAIN, JOBS, THAT LEGALLY, AND RIGHTFULLY, BELONG TO UNEMPLOYED AMERICANS.

DO NOT ALLOW OBAMA, AND THE DEMOCRATS, TO HOLD E-VERIFY HOSTAGE, OR WORSE YET, ELIMINATE E-VERIFY!!

E-VERIFY PREVENTS ILLEGALS FROM ILLEGALLY OBTAINING JOBS THAT BELONG TO AMERICANS!!


Brittanicus
Comment posted March 2, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

SEN. HARRY REID, TRAITOR TO AMERICAN WORKERS! E-VERIFY! 99.6 % SUCCESS RATE!

Don't let E-Verify expire and play into the hands of the corporate overlords and pro-illegal immigration special Interest lobby?

It's incoherent to me that Americans cannot conceive, that they have the ultimate power to halt this corruption in Washington? The major priority is to stop illegal labor getting work. American workers must command mandatory E-verify from these inanimate politicians? Don't let the corporate overlords win anymore? March 6th, is the deadline to stop this corruption in the Congress. Don't hesitate to stop head traitor Harry Reid of Nevada who secretly eroded the power of E-Verify? His Partners in dropping this major law was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Senator Gutierrez (D-IL), Sen. Feinstein (D-CAL), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ),Max Baucus (D-MT), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rahm Emanuel D-Chief of Staff)

Not only are politicians involved in intentionally engineering this illegal immigration crisis? State Governors, Mayors, judges, county elected officers and city officials qualify equally to be thrown out on the street? Although all of them can get a favorable job with the ominous US Chamber of Commerce, Council of La Raza and other open borders special interest groups. Find out the honest politicians that support E-Verify, like Sen. Sessions, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA). that would smash illegal immigration priority in the workplace. Locate those who killed E-Verify? Ruin their careers when they come up for re-election. Remember the deaths caused in Sanctuary cities nationwide by illegal alien gang members.

The whole country is feeling the financial pressure, for paying for schooling, health care and prisons. Your also paying for traffic gridlock, and high environmental damage caused by overpopulation.

Explode your anger at these lawmakers on the capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121. Leave a message for President Obama at 202) 224-3121

What http://www.judicialwatch.org has to say about political corruption


Louweegie272
Comment posted March 14, 2009 @ 9:41 am

Not sure how checking someone's le


Louweegie272
Comment posted March 14, 2009 @ 9:48 am

I am a freelance entertainment worker, for my entire 20 year career, I've needed to provide 2 pieces of ID and a valid SS# to be eligible to work. E Verify is a great tool and should be used, now. Not sre why I am a racist or ignorant for wanting to make sure that everyone who works here actually has the right to. This is ridiculous. The Big Business Interests has successfully bamboozled the Democratic Party into thinking millions of Illegal Immigrants from ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just MEXICO, is actually a good and fair thing for the people. Being a Union Member, I'm not sure who I'm more angry at, the press? The Democratic leadership who sells us out to the US Chamber fo Commerce. It's disgusting.


Louweegie272
Comment posted March 14, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

Not sure how checking someone's le


Louweegie272
Comment posted March 14, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

I am a freelance entertainment worker, for my entire 20 year career, I've needed to provide 2 pieces of ID and a valid SS# to be eligible to work. E Verify is a great tool and should be used, now. Not sre why I am a racist or ignorant for wanting to make sure that everyone who works here actually has the right to. This is ridiculous. The Big Business Interests has successfully bamboozled the Democratic Party into thinking millions of Illegal Immigrants from ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just MEXICO, is actually a good and fair thing for the people. Being a Union Member, I'm not sure who I'm more angry at, the press? The Democratic leadership who sells us out to the US Chamber fo Commerce. It's disgusting.


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Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

E-VERIFY PREVENTS ILLEGALS FROM ILLEGALLY OBTAINING JOBS THAT BELONG TO AMERICANS!!


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