Confessions of An E-Verify Employer Agent

I Everify

Mitt Romney rolls on (more or less). And his key success in the February 28 presidential primary in my home state of Arizona must be attributed at least in part to his going out of his way, in the candidates’ debate, to defend the state’s struggle against illegal immigration and its enabler, the Obama Administration.

As usual, of course, Romney’s signals are mixed. More recently, his spokesman Ryan Williams has been reassuring MSM immigration enthusiasts that Romney meant, not SB1070, but the state’s 2007 employer sanctions law. [For Romney, 'model' policy on migration isn't SB 1070, by Dan Nowicki, Arizona Republic, Mar. 3, 2012].

But even the 2007 law required Arizona employers to hire only legal workers. And the simplest way for an employer to do that is to use the Federal E-Verify program.

So, at the very least, a Romney nomination seems likely to make E-Verify an issue in the general election.

Why do business groups and "immigrant rights" groups fight so fiercely against making E-Verify mandatory? Is it really because they are concerned that legal workers will accidentally be flagged as unauthorized and be fired or that E-Verify will breed profiling?

I don't think so.

Let's be honest. Business groups are just greedy. They have become addicted to cheap illegal labor and they don't want to kick the habit. Immigration lawyers stand to receive millions generating clients. Ethnic advocacy groups such as La Raza are opposed to E-Verify because they want to build their client constituencies. And, of course, there's the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], which always opposes any form of immigration enforcement.

And the claim that employers would discriminate against work applicants based on skin color or appearance never held water—cheap labor hogs don't discriminate based on appearance, but only on how little pay the worker will accept.

But employers cannot use E-Verify to discriminate because it cannot be used to pre-screen applicants: the worker must be hired first and be on the payroll before any work-authorization queries may be made. E-Verify is totally colorblind, ethnic-origin blind, and surname blind. The single criteria for determining whether a new hire is authorized to work: a match between the new worker's name, Social Security number and, for non-citizens, a downloaded photo from the Department of Homeland Security [DHS].

I should know: I am an E-Verify Employer Agent.

That means I am authorized by the DHS to contract with an employer to do the online querying of the federal E-Verify data base to determine whether a newly-hired worker is authorized to work in the U.S. I am not a DHS agent: I can provide this service for a profit after passing a lengthy Mastery test. [See the E-Verify Manual: PDF]

Over the years, I have had scores of clients. They are typically smaller, high-turnover businesses that don’t want the time-consuming responsibility of verifying new hires. They include building contractors, restaurants, motels and hotels.

Immigration enthusiasts have thrown up a myriad of excuses for not using E-Verify. Chief among them: the claim that errors will result in legitimate workers being accidentally flagged as unauthorized, leading to their firing.

Anyone who believes this doesn't know how E-Verify works.

After hiring the worker, an employer who has signed up for the E-Verify program has three government business days to do an online work-authorization query. It takes about 30 seconds to download the results of the query. In the rare instance when a worker is flagged with a TNC (Tentatively Non Confirmed), the employer may not fire the worker. Rather, the employer must give the worker eight government business days to visit the nearest Social Security office to fix the error.

This actually happened to my own wife, who is an immigrant from Mexico. The E-Verify system was disturbed because she had not called Social Security to report that she had become a U.S. citizen. She straightened it out easily.

Of course, workers using fraudulent documents who get flagged with a TNC don't go to the Social Security office—they simply self terminate.

Critics of E-Verify have claimed that workers who self terminate are actually legitimate workers who were intimidated by E-Verify.

Thus in an August 1 2008 in a press release posted on its website,  the American Civil Liberties Union claimed: "E-Verify is harmful for the American workforce, often preventing innocent workers from earning a living."

I emailed the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office Director, Caroline Fredrickson, and challenged her to answer this question:

"Has the ACLU represented or do you know of any law firm that represented (or can you produce any documented information) of any American citizen or lawfully present immigrant worker who was denied a job or was fired from a job as a result of an E-Verify error?" 

Fredrickson never replied to my challenge. I could only conclude that the ACLU could not produce a wrongfully terminated worker. If the ACLU knew of such a victim, you can bet that it would have launched a lawsuit to make the "fired victim" rich.

If those in immigration law were really concerned about mistakes in legal workers' records, they would be pushing E-Verify—because it prompts legitimate workers whose cases were erroneously flagged Tentatively Non Confirmed to get their Social Security records fixed now, rather than when they reach the age of 65 and discover they’re missing credit for decades of work.

A 2009 study of E-Verify by Westat, an independent research consulting firm, claimed that 3.3% of all E-Verify queries were ultimately found to be for unauthorized workers, but just over half (54%) of those were mistakenly said by E-Verify to be work-authorized. (In other words, E-Verify actually was evaded by about half the illegal aliens checked through the system. However, this failing isn't E-Verify's—it arises because of identity theft.) [Findings of the E-Verify Program Evaluation, December 2009, PDF

In a cynical about-face, critics of E-Verify, who had previously complained that legal workers would be fired due to errors now used the Westat figure to criticize E-Verify on the grounds that 54% of illegal workers were found to be authorized to work. (As if they really cared!

But that 54% figure in the Westat report was based on its assumption about the number of illegal aliens in the workforce. It was not based on the discovery of any illegal immigrant individuals actually in the workforce. In other words, Westat guessed at the number.

Moreover, E-Verify has since implemented the mandatory use of the "photo tool": All employers using E-Verify must now download a non-citizen applicant's photo from the DHS, and it must be an overlay match of the photo on the document (such as a green card) presented to the employer. The downloaded photo and a photo on a fake green card  would not match. 

In anticipation of the phony claim that legitimate workers would not follow through to make corrections with Social Security out of "E-Verify intimidation," E-Verify now offers a "self check website." A worker who anticipates applying for a job can now do his/her own check by going to this website.

There's nothing to fear here. If workers know in advance that they are authorized, they can apply for a job with confidence. If any legitimate workers fail to pass their own E-Verify queries, then they can promptly straighten their records out with Social Security, without "intimidation."

After at least two lower court appeals by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups to kill E-Verify, the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26, 2011, by a 5-3 vote, upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA) ( Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting). Based on the high court's decision, state governments may mandate the use of E-Verify and may penalize employers that hire illegal workers by revoking state business licenses.

Immigration-enforcement opponents have always said that immigration is a federal issue. They have felt safe in saying this because they have always depended on the federal government to NOT enforce immigration laws.

But now federal legislation to make E-Verify mandatory is pending in Congress.  The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on June 15, 2011, to debate legislation that would mandate that all employers use E-Verify. The bill, H.R.2885, entitled "Legal Workforce Act" is authored by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith and at this writing has 74 sponsors ( see bill status)

Some immigration patriots, for example Kris Kobach and Congressman Lou Barletta, oppose federalizing E-Verify because the proposed law would pre-empt the states’ ability to require the use of the service. Other patriots, for example VDARE.com contributor Paul Nachman, support it.

I support the legislation too. It would absolutely require all employers to use E-Verify, whereas Arizona’s law only requires them to hire legal residents—and, sadly, the number of employers bothering to check their hires are has fallen off because Arizona’s enforcement has not been as rigorous as originally expected. [VDARE.com note: But their illegal alien population declined anyhow!

I do acknowledge, however, that the Obama Administration’s astonishing policy of unilaterally deciding not to enforce laws it doesn’t like could be a problem.

But if Obama wins re-election, all bets are off for America.

 

Hal Netkin (email him) is an E-Verify Employer Agent and an anti-illegal-immigration activist. Paul Nachman contributed to this article.