E-Verify: It's Electronic!

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Yesterday I attended a House subcommittee hearing on "e-verify," a now-voluntary federal system that verifies the legal status of people working for a very small number of U.S. employers. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) has introduced a bill that would make the system a regulatory requirement for every employer in the United States, over objections from people who say a national rollout of a program built on faulty databases will be a bureaucratic nightmare. There is also the question of whether citizens should have to ask the Department of Homeland Security for permission to work.

Also in attendance was Traci Hong, a naturalized American citizen who apparently had to visit the Social Security Administration six times before she was permitted to work. Hong also happens to be an immigration lawyer working for Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the House subcommittee on immigration and citizenship. There are very few people on Earth who can navigate the immigration bureaucracy as well as Hong, but it took her a week to clear her status with the SSA. Hong was in D.C. and could demand some kind of attention; imagine the same situation for a legal Spanish-speaking worker in rural Arizona.

Throughout the hearing, Shuler relied on various degrees of innumeracy while accusing employers of "exploitin' immigrant labor" and forcing people to endure "inhumane desert conditions." The social security database e-verify uses has a 4 percent error rate, though Shuler claims the overall system has an error rate of half a percent. Both of those numbers sound insignificant. Iowa Republican Steve King says "The accuracy of the e-verify system is remarkable!" and "almost perfect!" But 4 percent of 153 million workers is 6,120,000. (Half a percent is 765,000.) That's a lot of people who will have to wrangle with the federal government before showing up at the office.

There is reason to doubt the half a percent claim, which relies on some highly dubious conjectures on the part of the DHS. Currently, 5.8 percent of e-verify submissions come back as a mismatch, and employees can contest if they like. Half a percent fight back and eventually get permission to work, as Traci did. 5.3 percent "walk away from the process." "They're illegals!" exclaims DHS. That's certainly one explanation, and some number of them surely are undocumented. But last week in Phoenix, I was hearing stories of legal Latino workers who were fired as soon as e-verify registered an initial problem. One study has found that a third of employers who use e-verify illegally "pre-screen" employees, meaning that they simply won't hire anyone who isn't immediately approved. Not everyone walking away is undocumented. They're just workers with suspicious last names who happen not to be high-powered immigration lawyers working on the Hill.

Even if none of this worries you, shouldn't we be at least a little bit alarmed by something called "e-verify" in 2008? It sounds like something Prodigy would have rolled out when I was nine.

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  1. Heath Shuler’s NFL career stats:
    4 seasons
    3691 yards
    15 TD
    33 INT

    I rest my case.

  2. It could be that the remaining 5.3% decided to take advantage of their status and find a source of income where they wouldn’t have to pay any taxes. It could be nice if the taxman doesn’t think you’re a citizen.

  3. E-Verify: It’s E-Veriferrific!

  4. How, exactly, do you “prove” that you are a natural-born citizen? OK, I’ve got my birth certificate, my SSN and that’s about it. Am I supposed to have some sort of tattoo?

    Aren’t we trying to prove a negative at this point; that I’m *not* a feriner?

    I ran accross this applying for a company that does some gubmint contracting and there were several quesitons along this line, to which I answered “yes.” Of course, I had the same reaction then: how in the hell do I *prove* that I am a citizen?

  5. JW,

    Simple. Who won the 1995 World Series?

  6. I am most certainly an elitist pig, because I am convinced the government can get away with this shit because large segments of the population are too stupid to understand why this is bad or too apathetic to care.

    Welcome to the Soviet Union of America.

  7. This is trouble. Voluntary? Nothing the government does is voluntary.

  8. Shit Pro, I couldn’t tell you who won *last* year.

    Ask me later this year who the last Cylon is. THAT I could tell you.

  9. I thought this was only going to be required for employers working on contracts from the federal government.

    Anyway, this does present a good way to put the “Obama was really born in Kenya” rumor to rest…just run him through eVerify!

  10. Kinnath,

    Too true. Ever heard of the Delta, the west side of Mississippi? It’s like a third world country over there. Their drop out rate, if I recall my reading correctly, is around 60%. The state as a whole, hovers around a 40% drop out rate.

  11. Greg Maddox?

  12. Simple. Who won the 1995 World Series?

    It wasn’t the Cubs, that’s all I know. Of course, I’d know that without looking at the year…

  13. JW, actually there are many instances when you are required to “prove” that your a citizen. One is if you show up at a US consulate claiming to be one. The basic “proof” of citizenship is your birth certificate.

    To establish citizenship at a US consulate you will need a birth certificate and you will need to sign and swear an affidavit that you are, in fact, the person named on said birth certificate. Until you do that you’re pretty much just another guy who came in off the street.

    Of course, consulates often have to help US citizens who have had their passports and other papers stolen. At that point they pretty much rely on sworn affadavits. But they’ll still do a lot of verifying befor they’ll issue you a new passport.

    Your SSN is absolutely no use in establishing citizenship since they are also issued to resident aliens (ie Green Card holders).

  14. Even if none of this worries you, shouldn’t we be at least a little bit alarmed by something called “e-verify” in 2008?

    Change it to “iVerify”. The kids’ll love it.

  15. Isn’t the true test asking who won the Series in ’94?

  16. I thought this was only going to be required for employers working on contracts from the federal government.

    As I understand it, that was an executive order.

    This bill is fresh legislation to move e-verify from trials to the big time for everyone.

  17. My guess of Greg Maddox as the last Cylon was a hint–it was the Braves.

  18. E-Verify: It’s Electronic!

    Yes, but does it have Electrolytes?

  19. Simple. Who won the 1995 World Series?

    I have no idea. But I know Brazil won the World Cup in 1994. Is that enough to get me deported?

  20. Butts,

    Isn’t the true test asking who won the Series in ’94?

    Or 1904, for that matter.

    Chris Potter,

    Who won the World Series in 1908? No fair cheating and looking at the year.

  21. Is that enough to get me deported?

    Yes. And rightly so. Even if you are a US citizen.

  22. Isn’t the true test asking who won the Series in ’94?

    When I was growing up the best baseball trivia question was “Who was the last switch-hitter to win MVP?” Willie McGee then ruined the joke, unfortunately.

  23. Alright robc, you pass.

  24. Ate logo, Mr. Mannix.

  25. Naga,

    Do not confuse stupidity with ingorance, particularly when associated with poverty. I have met many truly stupid people that managed to get a colledge degree.

  26. smack my bitch up –
    e-verify!

  27. Who won the World Series in 1908? No fair cheating and looking at the year.

    D’oh! But they weren’t called the Cubs back then, were they?

    Of course, if they know who won the series in ’92 and ’93, that’s no guarantee they’re from the US.

  28. Your SSN is absolutely no use in establishing citizenship since they are also issued to resident aliens (ie Green Card holders).

    Actually, SSNs are issued to any one who can legally work — not just green card holders (e.g., H1 or other non-immigrant working visas).

  29. It sounds like something Prodigy would have rolled out when I was nine.

    “Smack My e-Bitch Up”?

  30. Of course, anon. Thanks. I keep forgetting those.

    Of course it’s so they can collect FICA taxes from people who will never get to collect any SS or Medicare. Beautiful.

    Ah, for the days when the only legal purpose of your SSN was to keep track of your Social Security “account”.

  31. Since we have moved to Prodigy comments . . . did anyone else hear the robotic voice say ITS E-LEC-TRON-IC. Cuz I did when I read the title, and then I busted into doing The Robot.

  32. Okay let’s be honest here shall we?

    For those of you who want completely open borders, be honest about it, don’t hide behind some woman who had their name changed when they got married.

    As for the immigration lawyer, yes it took her a week, but it was resolved. If it took her six months and required some abnormal proof I would be concerned. My guess is that once your social security number was fixed it would stay fixed. Now for people who get married and divorced and continually change their name it might be a problem that they face, what three or four times in their lives.

    Further, although some employers might use it illegally to screen employees, how many times would you have to be denied a job before you figured out something was wrong? Now ideally the first place would say, “Hey, your SSN doesn’t match, you need to fix it before we can hire you.” This might cost you ONE job, if they happen to fill it before you can clear your ssn.

    Further, if e-verify does exclude some workers and creates some scarcity for low wage workers, employers who have been using the e-verify as a pre-screening tool would be at a competitive disadvantage. Thus, rather than harming workers, it actually does the opposite. Since the effect would be to lower the number of unskilled workers it would have the effect of raising wages.

    If I were an unskilled LEGAL worker I would be all in favor of e-verify since it would reduce the pool of competitive workers.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  33. Let’s hope the only thing that’s changed is the location of his ineffectiveness has moved a few blocks to the west on East Capitol Street.

  34. Okay let’s be honest here shall we?

    The congress is using fear-mongering to justify legislation to force every fucking citizen to prove that he or she is in fact a citizen. And I don’t want to see any shit that this is somehow limited to companies that directly do business with the Feds. The slippery slope argument exists, because it is sometimes true.

  35. Okay let’s be honest here shall we?

    Insert a bunch of meaningless blather essentially saying “If you haven’t done anything, what are you worried about?”. Right. We all know how well that works.

    Continuing then.

    If I were an unskilled LEGAL worker I would be all in favor of e-verify since it would reduce the pool of competitive workers.

    You’re kidding, right?

  36. I thought this was only going to be required for employers working on contracts from the federal government.

    Here’s what I was thinking of. President Bush has already ordered this system to be used by employers working on federal contracts.

  37. Kinnath,

    First off you ALREADY have to prove you are legally entitled to work in the country anyway. The 1986 Immigration reform act did that.

    Ever notice that when you get hired you have to show TWO forms of ID. What you fear is ALREADY a reality, wake the fuck up.

    My issue is either your for completely open borders, which is fine, I have no problem with that, but don’t sit there and say, no I want immigration control, and then turn around and deny government the power to control the borders.

    Other Matt,

    My let’s be honest here, was about the issue of open borders, be honest say, “Open the fucking borders.”

    I personally think that we’ve had open borders for the last 30 years, and some people say, “Hey there are some negative consequences to being Mexico’s escape valve.” I personally think that the US can safely absorb a very large number of immigrants per year. But I also think that the days when the US can effectively absorb 1-2 Million unskilled laborers is over.

    Now since about 1/2 of all illegal aliens enter the country legally and then overstay their visas, the question becomes how do we encourage them to leave. Well we could quadruple the size of the border patrol and use nazi like tactics and conduct raids of employers all over the country.

    OR

    We could actually enforce the law that has been on the books for 22 YEARS. That is employers have to verify that you are entitled to work in this country legally. I’ve worked at a number of companies where future employees when asked to verify their status showed social security cards that looked like they were made with a Russian mimeograph from the 1930s. These fakes were so bad, that a trained chimp could tell they were faked. Yet, when I asked my boss about this, he said, “the law requires that I ask for the documents, it doesn’t require me to determine if they are authentic.”

    Thus, the employers have been hiding behind pathetically bogus documents for 20 Years.

    Again, if you don’t like the fact that you have to show ID to work, fine. but be honest and Say, “I want open borders.” “I think any Haitian that can make a raft that can get him here is entitled to stay.” But be honest.

    regards

    Joe dokes

  38. First off you ALREADY have to prove you are legally entitled to work in the country anyway. The 1986 Immigration reform act did that.

    Ever notice that when you get hired you have to show TWO forms of ID. What you fear is ALREADY a reality, wake the fuck up.

    No where near the same as requiring the federal government to vet that every person is legally entitled to work.

  39. Kinnath,

    Let’s see the law in 1986 required the companies to “vet” the workers, guess what they didn’t. Again and you haven’t answered my basic question which is are you for open borders or not? Yes, or no, it is really that simple.

    If you are NOT for open borders you must create some mechanism to control both who enters the country and who works in the country.

    What mechanisms do you suggest?

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  40. My issue is either your for completely open borders, which is fine, I have no problem with that, but don’t sit there and say, no I want immigration control, and then turn around and deny government the power to control the borders.

    There is no contradiction between wanting the federal government to control the borders and not wanting the federal government to verify the citizenship of every employee in the country.

    The immigration act of ’86 was a massive fuck-up which pushed the legal responsibilities of the federal government onto private employers. The only thing that could make this worse is putting a massive and incompetent bureaucracy into the middle of the hiring process.

  41. Drunk driving is bad. We can look for drunken drivers and punish them when we catch. Or we can stop every fucking car on the road and ask every driver to blow into a tube before continuing on.

    There’s a shit loads of laws that we need to enforce. So let’s make every person is subject to continuous surveillance to catch lawbreakers.

  42. Now since about 1/2 of all illegal aliens enter the country legally and then overstay their visas, . . .

    And since the federal government is incapable of keeping track of the people that it let’s into the country . . . .

    Let’s force every law-abiding American citizen to submit his or her papers to the same incompetent federal organization to ensure that he or she is “entitled” to hold a job.

  43. Joe Dokes,

    When the US passes a law that every employer must verify that their employees do not use illegal drugs, that will be quite a burden on them.

    When the US later comes along and says, no, we don’t trust your ability to test for drugs, so now you must refer your employees to the local Federal Drug Test Center (motto: Now only 4% false positives!) before you can hire them, that will be an even bigger burden.

    Is the second option better?

  44. Kinnath,

    So, do in your enforcement program you just want federal agents wandering around asking people, “Papers, please!”

    Since 1/2 of all illegal workers entered the country legally just EXACTLY how do you recommend that the federal government get them to leave?

    I think everyone is in agreement that the vast majority of illegal immigrants enter the country looking for employment. Thus, the most effective deterrent to illegal immigration is to deny potential illegal immigrants the ability to work.

    If you cannot or will not prevent illegal immigrants from working you are in effect ENDORSING open borders. Again, that’s fine, but at least be honest about it.

    I agree with you about laws, I get tired every time there is a school shooting some fucktard in Congress wants to pass another gun control law. I recall Kliebold and Harris (Think Columbine) violated several gun laws in their shooting spree, obviously those laws weren’t effective.

    My reasoning for supporting e-verify is simple. I see it as a way to effectively enforce current law, with minimal intrusion into the civil liberties of citizens. Did I like the fact that I had to show ID to get a job? No. but I also don’t agree with speed limits on the freeway, drug laws, and a whole host of other federal and state laws. Laws that I feel are ineffective and often stupid. In the final analysis though, I feel if you want the government to limit to any degree the amount and type of immigration that comes into the country then you must have ENFORCEABLE laws and actually enforce them. E verify actually finally requires employers to enforce a twenty year old law.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  45. I have a cunning plan.

  46. Is it as cunning as a fox what used to be professor of cunning at Oxford University, but has moved on, and is now working for the UN at the high commission of international cunning planning?

  47. Pro Libertate,

    You win, LOL.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  48. No, it’s even more cunning. Here’s the plan: Declare that the United States now encompasses the entire globe and that everyone on the planet is now an American citizen, with all of the benefits and tax liabilities attached thereto. Problem solved!

  49. I see it as a way to effectively enforce current law, with minimal intrusion into the civil liberties of citizens.

    Millions of employees times a 4% failure rate is hundreds of thousands of American citizens fucked in the ass.

    This is not a minimal intrusion. This is a major IT infrastructure problem in the hands of the people that can’t keep systems that public’s lives are dependent on (think air traffic control) up to date or functioning properly 24/7.

    I think everyone is in agreement that the vast majority of illegal immigrants enter the country looking for employment. Thus, the most effective deterrent to illegal immigration is to deny potential illegal immigrants the ability to work.

    You would be wrong.

  50. Yes, but does it have Electrolytes?

    .. I know I’m not a regular here but horsewithnonick wins this thread AFAIC ..

    .. Laughing Hobbit

  51. Folks – give the system a chance. Illegal Immigration is a huge epidemic which sits at the core of all our major issues – failing healthcare system, economies, identity theft, overcrowded cities and roads and national security to name a few. It is costing us billions each year. The system may not be perfect – but it is a start. In the states where it is required AZ and MS there are procedures for dealing with non-matches. Not everyone who has problems will have to run to the SS office. And employers who don’t want to deal with it – can call on companies like LegalEmployer.com to help them for basically nothing. Wake up America – let’s stop the magnet for illegal immigration – the JOBS!
    E-Verify is coming and it will be here to stay.

  52. The GAO report keyed to the hearing had a nice overview of the concerns. I don’t know if they orally testified to all of it, but its here:

    GAO-08-895T, Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System, June 10, 2008

    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08895t.pdf

  53. The bottom line is E-Verify works! Mississippi’s law requiring E-Verify takes effect on July 1st of this year, and guess what, many of the illegals have already left the state. They head to states like mine, FL, and other states where the spineless politicians don’t enact tough laws against illegals, but now they’ll have to once they see the negative (additional) impact it has on these states. S.3903 is a bill sponsored by Sen. Grassley (R-IA) and needs to be passed asap. It would require ALL STATES to use E-Verify! Please call your US senators today and insist (nicely of course) that they co-sponsor and support this bill. The SAVE ACT also needs to be passed asap, before the election, because sadly Obama and Juan McCain both support amnesty!!! Ask your US senators and reps to sign the “discharge petition for the SAVE ACT.” Only 30 more signatures are needed (nearly 500 Senators and Reps have already signed it!) but the Dem’s are primarily the ones holding this up. Speaker Pelosi is not allowing a vote on this bill, so if they get 30 more sig’s it will FORCE A VOTE and will surely pass! Please find your elected officials at: http://www.vote-smart.org and call today! Call toll free and the operator will transfer you to any US sen/rep: 1-800-828-0498
    p.s. The liberals and other naysayers are always going to try and find something negative to criticize as they have no real argument on which to stand. This bill is long overdue!

  54. Just one more comment: I see a few posts that are criticizing this bill stating basically that they should enforce all laws because “big brother” govt is coming to get you! Get real. We’ve been looking the other way for DECADES in allowing illegals to stay in the US, that the illegals actually think they’re ENTITLED to be here and to stay here, and while you’re at it, I demand amnesty! It’s outrageous. TWENTY-FIVE Americans a DAY are killed by illegals, through drunk driving, murder, etc. Check out: http://www.thedustininmansociety.org — read his sad story — 16 year killed by a drunk illegal who shouldn’t have been in the US to begin with! It’s bad enough when drunk Americans kill other Americans, but an ILLEGAL?!?

  55. To all the criticizers of E-Verify — have you ever been negatively impacted by illegals? I have been. Try finding a contractor in SW FL who does not use illegals! A roofer and a pool contractor hired ALL illegals, even when I made it clear to both that I did not want illegals on my job. They were never supervised and my pool looks like crap and I have to have it redone — sued the pool guy, but FL’s laws are written in favor of business and it was not cost effective to pursue it further. And, the roofer and their insurance company dragged out our claim, for which they even admitted fault and I have photo’s of the ratty old tarps they put on our roof. So, until you’ve actually directly dealt with it, I don’t think you realize how negatively, on many levels, illegals impact Americans.

  56. Wake up America – let’s stop the magnet for illegal immigration – the JOBS!

    We’re working on that as fast as we can. As soon as we’re done fucking up the economy, there won’t be a job to be had. We have to destroy the nation to save it.

  57. I IS ON UR ROOFS MAKING UR TARPS TEH UGLY

  58. TWENTY-FIVE Americans a DAY are killed by illegals, through drunk driving, murder, etc.

    This statistic sounded bogus. Turns out it is beyond bogus.

    It comes from an incorrect extrapolation (applying the crime statistics of the general population to a subgroup biased to being incarcerated solely for immigration crimes) of an incorrect estimate (BLS numbers are 20% versus GAO’s 28%) applied to an incorrect set of persons (both legal and illegal immigrants are counted) incarcerated in an incorrect set of prisons (only 6% of inmates are immigrants when state and local prisons and jails are included).

    And to add to its pedigree, it was made up by a congressman, Steve King of Iowa.

  59. TWENTY-FIVE Americans a DAY are killed by illegals, through drunk driving, murder, etc.

    As seen in Steve King’s diatribe, this bogus number breaks down into 12 murders and 13 manslaughters from the likes of vehicular homicide. Focusing on the 12 murders per day, King gets that figure by imagining that illegal immigrants have the same criminal profile as the average American and multiplying the 28% incarceration rate of immigrants (not necessarily illegal) in federal prison (not state) by the number of murders per year (16,000).

    Let’s try to fix the statistic.

    First, the proportion of inmates — federal, state and local — who are immigrants is 6.4%, not 28%. A helpful GAO report on actual illegal immigrants in federal and state prison gives us some other numbers: 12% of illegal immigrants in prison committed violent crimes, and 7% of the violent crimes they committed were murder. One more piece of the puzzle can be found from a BLS summary, which tells us that 10% of all federal inmates and 49% of all state inmates are in for violent crimes. Since 8% of all inmates are in federal prison, that makes the composite rate of violent crime for all inmates 46%.

    So 6% of inmates are alien, both illegal and legal, and they commit violent crimes at a quarter the rate of the average inmate.

    Therefore, instead of multiplying 16,000 murders by 28% as Rep. King did, we should be multiplying it by 6% and then by 27%. That yields a daily rate of murders by aliens — both legal and illegal — of 0.7 Americans — both citizen and alien — a day. One would think that the deaths by DUI and the like should be similarly repaired.

    One can conclude that there just might be one “American” killed per day by illegal immigrants. I still have my suspicions, however: I would think that — just as with any other localized cohort you could identify — they are far more likely to kill each other both intentionally and accidentally than kill those outside their cohort.

  60. Unfortunately I could find no statistics on how well illegal immigrants did on roofs and pools.

  61. No system is going to be 100% accurate. Its still a system that ALL employers should be mandated to use. If there is an error than people have time to correct the mistake. At least its a step in trying to stop the illegals from taking jobs they do not deserve. Also, all no matches should be reported to ICE for their further investigation into deporting any illegal found.

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