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Reid Doesn’t Want ‘Piecemeal’ Immigration Reform

Don’t expect to see Harry Reid break up immigration reform into small pieces — at least not if one of those pieces is an expansion of the E-Verify program. The Senate majority leader told a Nevada news station yesterday that he stands behind his decision to block 2009 legislation that would have made the employment eligibility verification program a requirement for construction companies. “We need to do comprehensive immigration reform,” Reid said. “We cannot do it piecemeal.”

Reid has gotten some flack for the statements against E-Verify, which critics say show a lack of support for legal Nevadans whose jobs may being taken by undocumented workers. (Illegal immigrants make up about 10 percent of the Nevada work force.) But there is some merit to the claim that expanding E-Verify would be problematic if it’s not part of a larger reform effort. When the Congressional Budget Office looked into the failed SAVE Act of 2007, it found a high cost to expanding E-Verify. The CBO said the bill would:

Decrease federal revenues by $17.3 billion over the 2009-2018 period. The decrease largely reflects the judgment that mandatory verification of employment eligibility through the E-Verify system would result in an increase in the number of undocumented workers being paid outside the tax system. In particular, JCT anticipates that some employers currently withholding income and employment taxes from the wages of undocumented workers and reporting these amounts to the Internal Revenue Service through the use of an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) or other employee identification number would no longer withhold or report such taxes.

The revenue problem could perhaps be countered by putting more Americans back into the work force. But without additional measures to keep businesses from working around the system and employing undocumented workers, an expansion of E-Verify could be a costly move.

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