CHN: E-Verify Bill Will Cost Americans Jobs; Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Historic DREAM Act Hearing

While Georgia’s system of verifying the immigration status of workers is wreaking havoc on the state’s agriculture industry, House Republican Lamar Smith (TX) has introduced his own national version of this approach – the Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2164).  It will be taken up in the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. Smith has touted this bill as a jobs creation program, but looking at the states that have passed similar legislation, it becomes clear that this is not a jobs creation program, but rather, a route to economic disaster. In Georgia, farm workers have fled and new workers simply are not coming into the state after its passage of a similar bill.  Due to this shortage in harvest labor, crops are spoiling, businesses are losing money, and prices are going up.
E-Verify is the federal government’s Internet-based system that attempts to verify workers’ eligibility by cross-checking a potential employee’s information with the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services databases. Lamar Smith’s bill would make it mandatory for all employers in the United States to use E-Verify before hiring any new employees. Currently, only 4% of businesses use the system, and increasing this number to 100% will be very costly. The Center for American Progress estimates that this bill will cost employers $2.6 billion annually, on top of additional first year startup costs. To operate, it will cost the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security a minimum of $1 billion over five years.

Furthermore, the E-Verify system has considerable flaws. If E-Verify were made mandatory, it is estimated that 3.5 million workers would be forced to resolve an erroneous rejection because of system errors.  Resolving these errors would translate into a jobs “tax” of $190 for workers who had to produce documents to show they were legally employed.  Many legal workers would not be successful in disputing their rejection, resulting in an estimated 770,000 legal workers, including U.S. citizens, losing their jobs due to system errors. The system has even greater error rates when screening unauthorized workers, catching only 46% of illegal workers.  .  With errors so rampant in the E-Verify system, analysts question whether the cost to business, workers, and government is justified by the results.

The DREAM Act: On the other side of the immigration debate, on Tuesday, June 28th, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held the first-ever hearing on the DREAM Act, which was first introduced ten years ago in 2001 by Senator Hatch (R-UT).  The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act offers young individuals who came to the United States illegally as minors, age 15 or younger, a chance to gain legal status and citizenship if they meet a stringent set of criteria and attend college or enroll in the military. In last year’s 111th Congress, the DREAM Act fell just five votes short of passage in the Senate after it was successfully passed in the House.  Notable witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing included Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Clifford Stanley.

At the hearing, the witnesses focused on the military and economic benefits of the Act.  If passed, the bill would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over 10 years and enable talented students to fill the more than 1.8 million vacant jobs in science and engineering.  In addition to generating more revenue, this act would significantly reduce the criminal justice and social services costs to taxpayers.  The DREAM Act would also significantly enlarge the pool of recruits for the United States military, which is expecting a sharp decline in enrollment when the economy eventually recovers.  While this hearing does help to refocus a fading light on immigration reform, it does little more. It is extremely unlikely that any federal immigration reform legislation will be passed before the 2012 elections, as the Democrats will be unable to overcome a filibuster of the bill.