Some Pitfalls of E-Verify

In  a presidential debate on February 22, Mitt Romney singled out Arizona’s E-Verify program as a model for the nation. The Public Policy Institute of California has said that the 2010 SB 1070 law was probably the reason that 92,000, or 17 percent of the Hispanic population of Arizona — most of them probably illegals — left the state. However, Magnus Lofstrom, a coauthor of the study, said that most who stayed increasingly shifted into a shadow economy nearly doubling the self-employment rate among non-citizen Hispanics in Arizona. Lofstrom says the shadow, or informal, economy would grow significantly if a national E-Verify system were established. There would likely be an increase in the informal economy rather than a higher potential toward self-deportation.

An increase in the informal economy would likely result in lower tax revenues, higher poverty rates and a higher potential for employer abuse.

Another problem with E-Verify is that according to a 2009 government-commissioned study, E-Verify only flags illegal immigrants half the time, because it can’t detect when a worker is using documents that belong to someone else. Mitt Romney supports biometric ID cards but universal ID cards have run into a lot of political opposition in the past.

Arizona does have a state-wide system to make sure businesses are using E-Verify: individual citizens must expose employers who break the law. In the first three years of E-Verify, only three businesses have been prosecuted. Business owners are worried that E-Verify’s high error rate would expose them to prosecution.

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