Problematic E-Verify Program Expanded to Include All Federal Contractors

November 14, 2008 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Today, President Bush issued a final rule requiring all federal contractors to use E-Verify, a flawed governmental system to check the citizenship status of the workforce, as a condition of doing business with the federal government. This rule would also require re-verification of some current federal contracts. This unprecedented expansion will require the compliance of millions of governmental contractors, for which the systemic infrastructure simply does not exist.

The E-Verify system checks the status of workers against their Social Security file, maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has already come under criticism for flawed databases, whose errors have resulted in backlogs in payments for the elderly and disabled. Mandating federal contracts to use E-Verify would only exacerbate the struggles of SSA.

“At a time when our economy is under duress, people are without work and struggling to stay in their homes, why would the federal government expand a policy known to prevent innocent Americans from earning a living?” asked Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Employment verification creates a domestic ‘No Work List’ leaving those swept up erroneously with the burden of proving they should be eligible to work. President Bush’s final rule moves forward a flawed governmental initiative that does harm to our American workforce, while failing to achieve its desired goal of enforcing immigration policy. Congress should step in and scrap this governmental boondoggle, enabling all Americans the opportunity to earn a decent living.”

There have been legislative proposals in Congress to expand the E-Verify system to encompass all hiring processes in the United States. The Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act, introduced by Representatives Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO) in June, drew close examination from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), prompting him to request a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate on the costs of implementation. CBO projected that E-Verify would cost taxpayers $40 billion over 10 years.

“E-Verify has been problematic since its inception – hobbled by bureaucratic errors in individuals’ Social Security files and runaway costs – preventing innocent Americans from working,” added Timothy Sparapani, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “The costs of moving forward with such a troubled initiative will be felt by all Americans, either in lost tax revenues for the elderly and disabled, or by those who will be prevented from working due to systemic errors out of their control. During times of such economic hardship, the federal government should be wary of any initiative that would compound the struggles of our American workforce. E-Verify represents bad policy, as well as bad politics, and should be scrapped by Congress.”

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