Controversial E-Verify System Integral Part of Immigration Reform Proposal

The bipartisan group of congressmen in the House, who are part of the "secret" group of eight, are expected to present their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform one to two weeks after April 9, when they return from Passover and Easter recess.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who's among the original five members who started meeting privately four years ago to discuss immigration reform, told The Christian Post he cannot reveal any details about the House plan, because members of the group have agreed not to discuss their proposal until it's complete. But he is, however, "looking forward to a time when he can talk about it."

Carter confirmed earlier this month that E-Verify is expected to be an integral part of immigration reform, and he told CP on Wednesday that "any changes will have to be implemented over a three-year period" because we "need an E-Verify system that serves everybody," including owners of small businesses, whom he says "will not be disadvantaged" by a reformed E-Verify system, and it will be "an advantage to them."

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

The House group will likely need another five to 10 two-hour meetings before their plan is finalized, according to a House Democratic aide.

Those close to the group also told CP that factions on both the liberal and conservative side believe that E-Verify is not a good system and it needs to be improved.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, National Immigration Law Center and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, among many others, have expressed concerns about the flaws of E-Verify, as well as the system's inability to protect people's right to privacy.

David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said members from both the House and Senate groups who are taking on the task of drafting immigration reform have contacted CEI to gain insight on the flaws inherent within E-Verify.

"E-Verify is hopelessly flawed," Bier said. "It will not stop illegal immigration, and it will cost Americans billions of dollars while limiting their privacy. If Congress does mandate E-Verify, it should do so with tight controls. It should exclude biometric data collection on citizens, and its rollout should be tied to a low error rate for citizens and no discriminatory impact for minorities."

Bier also believes that E-Verify puts business owners in a precarious position. "Employers face the burdensome requirement to train and pay workers that fail E-Verify for at least four weeks until after their chance to appeal has passed."

"Based on the cost of workplace turnover and a rejection rate of around 1 percent, this provision alone could cost $60 billion over the next decade," he warns. "This means that E-Verify provides a strong incentive to discriminate against workers more likely to be unauthorized, like Hispanics."

According to Bier, even if E-Verify was 100 percent accurate and cost nothing, Americans should object to its use on privacy grounds.

"E-Verify is an Internet-based national ID system; it could be used to instantly restrict or monitor access to anything based on any criteria the government chose," Bier explains. "The potential for abuse is too great to ignore."

In December 2009, a report was conducted for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by the independent firm Wastat, which showed, based on a statistical model, that 54 percent of unauthorized workers were able to thwart the E-Verify system.

"The actual number is impossible to know, given that we're talking about workers who the system deemed eligible," Bier said. "Unauthorized workers thwart E-Verify through identity theft. They forge ID cards and use other workers names and social security numbers. The fact that an additional 40 percent work under the table means that E-Verify will not stop illegal employment."

According to the ACLU, "… even if the database had an error rate of just one percent, that would equate to approximately 1.5 million mischaracterized Americans who would run into barriers when next seeking employment," Sandra Fulton said in a Feb. 28 blog post on the ACLU website. "To clear their names, these people would have to navigate the bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration to correct their profile in order to get work."

House members are also concerned that E-verify "doesn't do a very good job of stopping people who are not authorized to work, from working," a House Democratic aide said. Likewise, "naturalized citizens are sometimes caught up in the system and denied access to work, and then denied appeal."

A concern for House Democrats is that if E-Verify is expanded, the errors of the system might also multiply. That being said, both Republicans and Democrats want an E-Verify system that has integrity and is easy for businesses to use.

The House immigration reform plan, like the Senate immigration reform plan, has been delayed, but sources tell CP this is simply due to logistics, because members return to their districts when votes aren't taking place on the House floor.

Those close to the House group also said that E-Verify is probably not the most difficult part of immigration reform but rather, the hardest parts have to do with immigrants who will be coming in the future.

"How do you set up the visas? What demand and supply will there be? Will there be caps placed on certain types of visas, or will there be an unlimited number of visas? Right now, the system is so bureaucratic; it isn't working," a House Democratic aide said.

Members of the House group, which includes two Democrats and one Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, is comprised of eight members: Democrats John Yarmuth (Ky.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Xavier Bacerra and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, and Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson, both from Texas, Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.) and Raul Labrador (Idaho).

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