Cato Study Finds E-Verify “Ineffective, Intrusive, Expensive”

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 08030660 (posted Mar. 6, 2008)"

March 6, 2008

"EEV" of Destruction

Cato Institute study finds Electronic Employment Verification (EEV) is ineffective, intrusive, expensive

(WASHINGTON) E-Verify, the program promoted by the Bush administration to reduce illegal immigration, would be ineffective, invasive and costly, finds a study by the Cato Institute.

"A full-fledged Electronic Employment Verification (EEV) system has many practical and technical problems-to say nothing of the question of whether it is appropriate for a free country-and would still fail to prevent illegal immigration" says Jim Harper, Cato's director of Information Policy Studies and author of "Electronic Employment Verification: Franz Kafka's Solution to Illegal Immigration."

To be done effectively, EEV would require an expensive national ID system which would greatly impinge upon the privacy of American citizens. "The things necessary to make a system like this really impervious to forgery and fraud would convert it from an identity system into a cradle-to-grave biometric tracking system," writes the author. This would increase the value of committing identity fraud, and the amount and type of information stored in the databases would expose Americans to grave security risks.

EEV would make applying for jobs a hassle for all American citizens and it would effectively deny some law-abiding individuals the ability to work. A study by the SSA Inspector General revealed an error rate of 4.1 percent in the data used to administer the Basic Pilot program, now renamed E-Verify. At that rate, 1 in every 25 new legitimate hires would receive a "tentative nonconfirmation," requiring the individual to go through a burdensome process to seek permission to work from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

The cost of such a program, including the preliminary national ID system, is estimated to be $17 billion, $11 billion of which would fall directly on state governments. The remaining $6 billion would be shouldered by American citizens as they struggle to prove their right to work in this country.

"'Mission creep' all but guarantees that the federal government would use an EEV system to extend federal regulatory control over Americans' lives even further," writes Harper. In the immigration area alone, proposals have been made to regulate housing in the same way as employment. Healthcare and gun control, among others, are two areas that are especially vulnerable to such mission creep.

As the history of immigration law has proven, "immigrants and employers dedicate their ingenuity to getting what they want and need." As a result, internal enforcement of immigration law has been a failure for the past 20 years. There is no reason to believe EEV would be any different. Further, the author concludes: "with nationwide electronic employment verification, the United States would move to a regime where the last word on employment decisions would not be with the worker and employer but with bureaucrats in the federal government."

This report can be found at: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9256

Media contact:

Laura Osio, Manager of Media Relations, losio@cato.org, (202) 789-5200

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