E-Verify is an immigration enforcement tool. It is the federal government’s Internet-based system that allows employers to check whether prospective employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Currently, only 4 percent of all American businesses use the system, but House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has introduced the Legal Workforce Act of 2011, H.R. 2164, to make E-Verify mandatory for all employers across the country.
This mandate would cost Americans their jobs and crush small businesses. And an important point that appears to be lost in Rep. Smith’s proposal is that E-Verify does not even work at catching unauthorized workers—precisely what it is designed to do. The real solution is to pair E-Verify with a program that ensures a full legal workforce and to phase it in gradually to allow the government to make it error proof.
The 10 numbers below illustrate the drastic effects of an E-Verify mandate on all Americans.
1. $17.3 billion: The amount of federal revenue that will be lost over 10 years with mandatory E-Verify as undocumented workers move off the books and into the cash economy where the government cannot collect taxes.
2. $2.6 billion: The amount small businesses would have had to spend in 2010 if E-Verify had been mandatory. These businesses make up 99.7 percent of all American businesses and created 64 percent of all net new jobs over the past 15 years.
3. $1,254 to $24,422: The average first-year startup costs for running E-Verify per small business. The average cost for running E-Verify per small business after the first year is $435. First-year costs include the cost to take time from work to sign the appropriate memorandum of understanding with the government, review contracts and the 80-page field guide, and start verifying all of your employees. From then on employers only have to put new hires through the system.
4. $765 million to $838 million: The amount of money the Department of Homeland Security estimates it will need to run mandatory E-Verify over a four-year period. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office deemed this figure to be “minimally credible,” meaning the actual figure could be far higher.
5. $281 million: The amount of money the Social Security Administration estimates it will need to run mandatory E-Verify over a five-year period.
6. 60 million: The number of new hires in the United States each year, all of whom would require verification through E-Verify.
7. 22 million: The number of government employees who would require re-verification—verification through E-Verify even if you are already working—under the Legal Workforce Act. An additional 10 million people who receive a “no-match letter,” indicating that the government database information does not match that of the employee, will require re-verification, as will anyone working in a critical infrastructure site like an airport or a seaport. Between new hires and re-verifications, the total number of people run through the system in the first year would come close to the 154,287,000 people currently employed in the United States.
8. 1.2 million to 3.5 million: The number of Americans who will be required to go to a Social Security Administration office to fix erroneous information at a personal cost of, on average, $190 in lost wages and transportation or risk being unable to work in a job they already secured.
9. 770,000: The number of Americans who will be unable to fix the government database errors and will ultimately lose their jobs because of E-Verify.
10. 46 percent: E-Verify’s success rate at catching unauthorized workers. In other words, E-Verify fails to detect unauthorized workers more than half of the time.
Philip E. Wolgin is an Immigration Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress.
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