The Corner

The E-Verify Glass Is Half Full

An evaluation of the E-Verify program conducted about two years ago has just been released. (The 338-page pdf is here.) It estimates, among other things, that about half of illegal aliens who were screened between April and June 2008 managed to foil the system and get approved for employment, and opponents of immigration enforcement are tickled pink. Chuck Schumer, who is taking the lead on amnesty, said, “This is a wake-up call to anyone who thinks E-Verify is an effective remedy to stop the hiring of illegal immigrants.” Likewise, former Kennedy staffer Marc Rosenblum said, “Clearly it means it’s not doing its No. 1 job well enough.”

These complaints from the pro-amnesty folks are kind of funny, considering that they’ve spent the past several years complaining in the press and in lawsuits that the databases are so corrupted that legions of legal workers across this great land were unjustly being denied work. Since that’s just not happening, their new argument has to be that too many illegal aliens are being approved — as though they really mind that.

Nevertheless, it’s certainly true that E-Verify isn’t tight enough yet, but in a glass-half-full sense, this isn’t really bad news. After all, in the old paper-based system (still used for most hires), 100 percent of illegal aliens are approved, so this is real progress. What’s more, we know perfectly well what the problems are, and they don’t have much to with with the E-Verify system itself.

The core problem is identity theft — multiple uses of the same combination of name/birthdate/Social Security Number. (E-Verify has always been very effective at catching the most common form of identity fraud, which involves illegal using their own names paired with a stolen or made-up SSNs.) This was highlighted as a challenge at least as far back as 1994, when Barbara Jordan’s Commission on Immigration Reform issued its initial report.

This new report finds that only 9 percent of SSNs used nine times or more between 2004 and 2008 were kicked out by the system as illegal aliens; obviously, almost all of them were being misused by illegal aliens. As the authors noted, “It does not seem plausible to the evaluation team that only 9 percent of the cases in which workers used SSNs or A-numbers on the Transaction Database nine or more times were for unauthorized workers.” This is why photos from green cards and Employment Authorization Documents now pop up when someone presents one of those (passport pics are coming online soon), and also why states need to provide driver’s license photos when those documents are used (some states are resisting, even though they share with each other). In other words, E-Verify needs a robust ID system underlying it, which is why Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which some states and open-borders interests are still resisting.

Finally, the report notes that “mandating the use of E-Verify is expected to make the Program more effective in preventing unauthorized employment.” Yes, it is. And the best example of such a mandate is Arizona, but its experience with the program was not assessed in this report; “The evaluation team did not have adequate data for estimating the impact of E-Verify on unauthorized employment in Arizona, the only state that has implemented E-Verify for all employers.”

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