Immigration

E-Verify Out of Stimulus Package


Jill Garvey • Feb 16, 2009

The economy is saved! Ok maybe not, but the passing of the $787 billion stimulus package will hopefully start providing desperately needed movement. In the press I’ve been hearing a lot of Republicans whining that the bill wasn’t bipartisan, that they were basically railroaded. Interestingly, the Republican politicians responsible for heavy amendments to the bill didn’t even vote for it. Emptywheel breaks it down for us…

Tom Coburn, Chuck Grassley, and Susan Collins. They’re the ones responsible for the way this bill looks.

And fricking Coburn and Grassley won’t even have the decency to vote for their own handiwork. That’s the new definition of “bipartisan”: three Republicans screw with a bill, and in the end, only one of them even votes for it.

Despite the shenanigans of the above-mentioned, not everything got screwed up. The E-Verify mandate was noticeably absent from the bill. E-Verify is an error-riddled database that employers can use to verify an employees immigration status. It has long been touted by the Department of Homeland Security and rabid anti-immigrant groups as the golden ticket that will protect the American worker. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The New York Times says it well in Saturday’s editorial Helping Workers in Hard Times.

Undocumented immigrants make up only about one-twentieth of the work force but are overwhelmingly represented in the most dangerous, dirty and low-paying jobs. Driving out every undocumented worker, a temptation in hard times, clears the way for laid-off Americans to pick lettuce, wash dishes and cars, and wait all morning outside Home Depot for a contractor to drive up.

That doesn’t sound terribly smart. Nor were the efforts by tough-talkers in Congress to slip into the stimulus package a ban on any illegal worker receiving a penny of recovery money. They wanted to require every business receiving that money to use an error-plagued employment-verification system, E-Verify.

That idea crashes on the rocks of common sense. It is impossible to know how many undocumented workers might get hired through the stimulus, but the Congressional Budget Office has already quantified the cost — in thousands of lost jobs and billions in lost tax revenue — of the mandatory mass expansion of E-Verify. That is from all the workers who would be fired because of database errors or simply moved off the books.

E-Verify is just another hurdle in the road to economic recovery. That it was stripped away is a huge victory not just for immigrant rights advocates seeking more humane treatment of immigrant workers, but for every American. Republicans will still have chances to slip it into legislation however. The fight to defeat E-Verify is not over yet.

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