Blog of Rights

The Battle Over Immigration is About to Affect All of Us in a Big Way

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:51pm

Many of us have strong opinions about immigration, but few feel the direct impact from the injustices of immigration law. That’s about to change.

Despite a significant error rate, pleas from multiple sectors of American business, and the heightened risk of identity theft, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is dead-set on pushing legislation that would make the flawed E-Verify system mandatory for every U.S. worker and today he introduced H.R. 2164, the Lawful Workforce Act, which would do just that. This initiative is one of the top Republican priorities for this Congress.

In simple terms, E-Verify is basically a federal “right to work” list. If you are correctly entered in the system, you can start a new job. If something is wrong with your record (such as a name change or data error), you have to wait in line at the Social Security Administration or with the Department of Homeland Security to get your record fixed. Sometimes that’s impossible and, if so, you’re out of luck and out of work.

Using current error rates, if E-Verify had been mandatory last year, 1.2 million Americans would have had to fix their records before they could start a new job. Wow. Government reports have specifically identified people with name changes, Hispanic surnames, and hyphenated names as having particular problems.

You’ll feel some other effects as well. If you are a small business owner, you have to wade through the 82-page E-Verify rules before you can hire someone new. If you’re a taxpayer, you’ll be paying your share to make up for the approximately $17 billion in lost tax revenue caused when employers move to hire people off the books (that number is courtsey of the Congressional Budget Office). If you’re worried about privacy, you’ll love the pilot program to create a biometric national ID.

The kicker is that E-Verify doesn’t work. 54 percent of undocumented workers get through the system.

Rep. Smith is expected to push the Lawful Workforce Act quickly through the House and the bill will be a high priority for Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate. The immigration wars are coming to your workplace and your job – get ready. Please click here to tell your representatives to oppose a mandatory E-Verify system.

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