Center for American Progress

STATEMENT: CAP’s Angela Kelley on Introduction of the Legal Workforce Act of 2011
Press Statement

STATEMENT: CAP’s Angela Kelley on Introduction of the Legal Workforce Act of 2011

Today, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Legal Workforce Act of 2011 that would dramatically expand and make mandatory a government internet-based work authorization system, E-Verify, on all U.S. employers. Below is a statement by Angela Maria Kelley, CAP’s Vice-President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy.

Co-sponsors of the Legal Workforce Act of 2011 have hit the trifecta in counterproductive policy-making by pushing a program that grows the deficit, breaks the back of small business, and fails to solve the problem. The bill, which mandates a massive verification system, is the latest shiny object latched onto by immigration restrictionists in support of their mass deportation delusions. Eschewing reality—dealing realistically with undocumented workers —in pursuit of this fantasy, however, would come at a severe cost to the nation’s economy.

Mandating a fundamentally flawed E-Verify system without providing the foundation for a legal workforce will cost the federal government billions of dollars in lost revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. The Congressional Budget Office scored a similar bill at a whopping $17.3 billion dollar hit to revenues. The Department of Homeland Security estimated that operations costs would run as high as $838 million over four years, a figure the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office deemed low and described as “minimally credible.”

Worse still, it will cost small businesses an estimated $2.6 billion to comply with the bill’s unfunded mandate, and will impose a jobs tax on millions of ordinary Americans who have to comply with the new rules. In addition to squeezing small businesses and Americans seeking work, close to 800,000 legal American workers will lose their jobs because of system errors. Adding insult to injury, E-Verify has a poor track record of actually catching the undocumented. More than half of all undocumented workers (54 percent) will continue working without a problem. Far from achieving the restrictionist goal of kicking out all unauthorized immigrants, the remaining 46 percent will be pushed into the informal economy, where their economic contributions will not end up in the government’s coffers.

The country is in a weakened economic state, yet lawmakers blithely break the piggy banks of American workers and small businesses in pursuit of flawed deportation-centric measures. Policymakers interested in generating revenue and creating a legal workforce should offer proposals requiring undocumented immigrants to register, pay a fine, and become full Americans. Only those building blocks will create a solid foundation for a workable E-Verify system.

To speak to an expert from the Center for American Progress about this issue, please contact Raul Arce-Contreras at [email protected] or 202.478.5318.