E-Verify: Setting the Record Straight

A new report on the voluntary E-Verify system shows a decent record at keeping more illegal aliens from taking American jobs.

That may not be what you read elsewhere, but that’s the truth behind the spin being leveled against employment verification.  A consulting firm, Westat, has issued a report on E-Verify’s performance, and by and large found the system working well.

However, even the Wall Street Journal used terms like “controversial” to describe E-Verify.  The newspaper’s story on the Westat report focused on a single statistic — one that, taken out of context, makes it seem the verification system is unreliable.  The Journal should know better and be more fair in its reporting.

The important facts about the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification program give a much different picture.  The most important statistic:  Queries in this program give accurate responses 96 percent of the time.  Not bad for a government program.

The Journal and other news reports have omitted this statistic:  99 of 104 employers sampled were generally satisfied with E-Verify.  Those employers reported that the program isn’t burdensome.

Another key figure is the date of the data.  Westat’s report analyzes data from two years ago: second quarter of 2008.  So the report’s findings are already well out of date.

But open-borders lobbies have hammered away with another statistic:  54 percent.  Remembering Mark Twain’s categorization of falsehoods as lies, damned lies and statistics, that’s where the 54 percent figure fits in.

By way of background, Congress began electronic employment verification in 1996.  It started as a pilot program that sought to demagnify the “jobs magnet” drawing many illegal aliens here.  The E-Verify program now is available free to all employers nationwide for voluntary enrollment.

At least 10 states and the federal government require government contractors to use E-Verify to ensure they employ only Americans and legal immigrants.  Three states require all employers to use E-Verify screening.

Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau, which runs E-Verify, has sought to set the record straight.  The 4 percent of cases in which “an inaccurate response” was given indicates illegal aliens committing identity fraud and theft.  It also includes newly married American women who haven’t yet updated their married name with Social Security.

USCIS noted that 6.2 percent of all E-Verify queries involve an illegal alien new hire.  “Primarily due to identity fraud, E-Verify only correctly found that unauthorized workers –not all workers — were not work authorized about half (54 percent) of the time,” USCIS said.  “As a result, the 54 percent statistic relates only to the 6.2 percent figure . . . and means that of all E-Verify queries, only approximately 3.3 percent are for unauthorized workers that were incorrectly found work authorized.”

In other words, illegal aliens whose new employer ran them through E-Verify two years ago had a 50-50 chance of beating the system and keeping the American jobs they came to steal.  But they made up only roughly 3 percent of all E-Verify worker queries.  And the reason is they’re ID thieves.

Notably absent from the report:  Large numbers of legal workers being deprived of jobs on account of E-Verify inaccuracies.  If Americans and legal immigrants were being erroneously screened out of the workplace, you surely would hear about that.  And no doubt, enemies of workplace verification would scream bloody murder.

Fast-forward to today.  To address the ID fraud issue, USCIS now includes legal immigrant workers’ photos from green cards and immigrant work authorization documents in E-Verify.  This makes it easy to keep an illegal alien from submitting someone else’s name, date of birth and immigration work number.

And E-Verify is scaling up fast and successfully.  USCIS recently announced that since October 2009, more than 188,000 businesses at 700,000 worksites queried E-Verify 5.1 million times.  That compares with about 6 million total inquiries in 2008.  And more than 50,000 businesses have enrolled in the employment verification program since October.

Some 8 million illegal aliens hold U.S. jobs — about the same number of Americans on the official unemployment rolls.  Having businesses back-check current workers through the online E-Verify system might be a cheap, effective jobs program.

Displacing illegal alien workers from American jobs they ought not have in the first place would be a lot better jobs plan than the “economic stimulus” boondoggle President Obama forced through last year.  And it sure as heck wouldn’t cost $800 billion.