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The Truth About E-Verify

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Republican members of Congress, led by the anti-immigrant "Three Amigos" in the House (Lamar Smith, Elton Gallegly and Steve King) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are on a mission to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

They won't exactly say that mass deportation is their goal, but it is. Their latest ploy is to push a massive (and flawed) government identification system onto all American business and all American workers They know this system, called E-Verify, doesn't work. But their zeal for mass deportation trumps common sense.

Over the next few weeks and months, we'll hear Republicans claim unequivocally that E-Verify is the next great solution to our immigration problem. It's not; the real solution is comprehensive immigration reform. So, let's look at some key facts about the GOP's next "great" idea -- mandatory E-Verify for all workers:

Job loss: The Government Accounting Office estimates that 770,000 American workers would lose their jobs due to database errors. Already in FY10, it is estimated that 80,000 Americans unfairly lost their jobs because of E-Verify. That's almost 800,000 jobs in an economy that still hasn't recovered from the recession.

Errors that will affect millions of workers: Republicans hate big government, except e-verify, which has an error rate that will impact millions. Due to the error rate of the program, the government estimates that mandatory E-verify will force between 3 million and 4.1 million American workers to get their records corrected by a government agency or lose their jobs. These errors put an enormous burden on workers and can result in loss of wages, adverse action by employers, and loss of employment. The Government Accounting Office called the process of fixing government database errors "formidable" and SSA reported in 2010 that 3.3 million visitors left a field office without receiving service.

Costs to small business: Making E-Verify mandatory will hurt small businesses, which employ over 50 percent of the U.S. workforce and have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the last 15 years. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, if E-Verify were mandatory in fiscal year 2010, it would have cost small businesses $2.6 billion.

Destroy American Agriculture: America's agriculture industry relies heavily on undocumented workers. Up to 75 percent of the U.S. agricultural labor force is comprised of unauthorized workers. E-Verify would result in the loss of most of the agricultural workforce. That's why Florida Republican State Senator JD Alexander, a farmer, strongly opposed the state version of E-Verify this year, calling it "flawed.' Put simply, E-Verify will destroy American agriculture, driving up food costs, sending jobs overseas, and forcing us to import more of our produce from foreign sources. Even in this difficult economy, experts agree that Americans are not going to return to the fields to pick crops if we force out 3 million agriculture workers. In addition, according to the Department of Agriculture, for every on-farm job there are about 3.1 "upstream" and "downstream" jobs. That means that deporting an illegal farm worker and sending production overseas eliminates other jobs currently held by Americans.

Loss of tax revenue: Pushing undocumented workers off of the tax rolls would decrease federal tax revenues by at least $17 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's a bad deal for all taxpayers.

Harsh impact on legal residents and US citizens: Legal permanent residents and naturalized citizens will be hurt the most by this proposal. They are 10 and 32 times more likely than native-born citizens to be falsely identified as "unauthorized" by this program.

High failure rate of over 50%: In addition to all the other problems mentioned, E-Verify doesn't even work that well. By the government's own statistics, E-verify will only identify undocumented workers less than 50% of time. The rest of the time, undocumented workers will use documents that allow them to pass through the verification system.

If Democrats proposed legislation that would cause the loss of almost 800,000 jobs, would force 4 million more workers into an administrative quagmire, would cause an undue burden on small businesses, would nearly wipe out the agricultural workforce, would result in the loss of tax revenue -- and had a failure rate of 50%, Republicans would be apoplectic.

Thought when it comes to immigrant bashing, Republicans, led by Reps. Smith/Gallegly/King, apparently love costly, inefficient, ineffective, intrusive government programs.

Supporters of mandatory E-verify, like those "Three Amigos," make it sound easy and harmless: a simple online check of your social security number and other personal data, and you're done. If you are undocumented, it will be found out and you will not be allowed to work. But nothing the government does on this scale is easy. In fact, the unintended consequences of mandatory E-verify are enormous, and the payoff is less than impressive. Ironically, it's usually the same Republicans who are pushing for mandatory E-Verify who are saying that about large-scale mandatory government programs.

The stark reality is this: our immigration system is badly broken. It will continue to get worse until Republicans in Congress stop pushing their mass deportation fantasy and decide to work with Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

So, why all this pain and aggravation for a government program that won't even work, will wreak havoc on our economy, and won't address the immigration problem?

Republicans are playing to their hard-core anti-immigrant base. It's that simple. Instead of playing politics with the issue, Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to pass comprehensive immigration reform that requires undocumented workers to get legal, pay taxes, and undergo background checks on their way to becoming full U.S. citizens. They won't, but they should.

America's Voice and a growing coalition oppose mandatory E-verify without legalization of the entire undocumented workforce. We're tired of failed band-aid approaches, and fed up with "politics as usual" approach to the immigration issue. Republicans have to get over their mass deportation fantasy.

We need our leaders in Washington to work together and pass comprehensive immigration reform. It is the only fiscally responsible, fair, and practical solution.

Cross-posted at America's Voice and Daily Kos.

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