The Corner

Trust but Verify

Mark: Thanks for providing the source material as requested. Unfortunately, your projection that between one-quarter and one-third of new hires in the upcoming year will be processed through E-Verify is a gross exaggeration, as is your dependent corollary that business has enthusiastically embraced the system. 

 

The initial mistake was mine. I recalled a churn rate of roughly 7 million new hires per quarter for full-time equivalent workers — a rate of roughly 28 million per year. This is true, but irrelevant. 

 

You are correct in asserting that any calculation of “new hires” based on E-verify queries will be much higher: Homeland Security sponsors E-Verify for all jobs described in the Department of Labor’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Series. These include “new and rehired employees, full-time and part-time, permanent, short-term, and seasonal employees who returned to work after having been formally separated, and transfers from other locations.” 

 

Using this definition, the American economy generates almost 4.5 million “new hires” per month, or around 54 million per year. Obviously, this doesn’t mean 54 million discrete individuals, as it includes temps, transfers, and transients. 

 

Using a slightly updated version of the Homeland Security numbers on which Janice Kephart based her March 8 blog entry (“E-Verify Use Projected to Grow 442% 2007– 2009”), we find that after two full months, E-Verify has been queried just over 3 million times

 

At this rate, 18 million queries will be submitted by the end of the year. If so, roughly one-third of total new hires would, as you state, be processed through E-Verify. 

 

These 18 million hires will be generated, according to your reckoning, by roughly 200,000 American businesses, or less than 3.3 percent of the 6 million American companies with employees. 

 

I questioned you regarding two things, Mark: What employment sectors could possibly hire at this rate, and how could E-verify queries actually represent “new hires”? 

 

You answered the first question by saying that the users of E-Verify included big corporations. You answered the second thus: “Note to Nadler: All queries to E-Verify are new hires — much to employers’ chagrin, you can’t use it to screen applicants, only to verify people you’ve hired.” 

 

Well, you’re wrong. Homeland Security commissioned Westat to do an extensive field review of E-Verify. Westat reported that 16 percent of employers frankly admit submitting queries for job applicants, not hires, despite the fact that the law forbids it.  (They are never prosecuted, Mark. E-verify users, unlike other I-9 users, are apparently exempt from following employment-verification laws.) 

 

Another 31 percent of employers in the pilot project, without explicitly admitting screening, confessed to submitting queries prior to an applicant’s first day of paid work.  This practice, too, is illegal. 

 

Finally, one sector of the job market — “Employment services” — submitted 50 percent of the total queries. 

 

According Westat: “Employment services were responsible for 50% of all verifications, but only 3 percent of all newly hired workers.”

“It is possible,” comments Westat, “that their high transmission rate reflects a greater proclivity of the employers to prescreen.”

Square that circle for me, Mark.

To summarize: 

 

1) The 54 million queries that you define as “new hires” are not 54 million individuals. 

 

2) Sixteen percent of the businesses enrolled in E-Verify use “queries” for applicants, not just for hires (an illegal practice). We have no idea of the variance between those screened and those hired. 

 

3) Thirty-one percent of the user-businesses submit queries prior to putting an “accepted” applicant to paid work (an illegal practice). We’ve no idea of the variance between those screened and those who actually commence work. 

 

4) Employment agencies, a sector accounting for 3 percent of national hires, submit 50 percent of queries. They are obviously pre-screening en masse. 

 

Mark, I cannot determine what percentage of newly hired human beings are screened through E-Verify. And neither can you. But I can tell you this: It’s nowhere near one-third. 

 

P.S. — On pages 84 through 86 of the study, Westat outlines to Homeland Security how easily E-Verify can be defeated by determined illegals and sympathetic employers through 1) counterfeit documents, 2) borrowing or buying valid documents of others, 3) obtaining valid documents with fraudulent breeder documents, and 4) simply evading the system by becoming an independent contractor. People who are serious about workplace I.D. consider E-verify a farce: a prelude to the electronic transmission of document fraud. They know (as do you and I) that without biometric identifiers, workplace I.D. will remain dysfunctional. But we rarely discuss this on the right, because our friends — me included — get a bit spooked when contemplating a universal government DNA database.

— Richard Nadler is president of the Americas Majority Foundation, a public-policy think tank in Overland Park, Kan. 

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