By Kylie Jacobsen
When Americans think of immigration, only a few particular issues come to mind. Border security, illegal immigration, and amnesty are some of the most controversial topics facing our nation today, and Americans have a tendency to believe that the entire subject of immigration encompasses only these few topics. Although these issues are obviously important to discuss and find solutions for on Capitol Hill, there are many topics of immigration that have a profound effect on our nation as well. The E-Verify system serves as a perfect example of this. Today at The Washington Center, we had the opportunity to listen to speaker Mark Krikorian discuss the E-Verify system in detail and learn a lot about the system and the challenges it faces in the future.
The E-Verify system was initiated in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, where employers were required to certify that their employees were eligible to work in the United States. This was not actually enforced until 1997, when the Basic Pilot Program was launched in selected states. It assists employers in comparing records from an employee’s I-9 form to INS and SSA records, thus determining if an employee is lying about their record. E-Verify has become very popular with employers, with over 480,000 employers that use the service as of 2013. Since 2001, the E-Verify enrollment has increased by 400%. Its rise in popularity is undeniable.
Many states have proposed or have required mandatory E-Verify screenings from employers or state agencies. Last month, Rick Perry issued an executive order that requires all state agencies and contractors to use E-Verify before hiring an employee. In Missouri, a new bill by Rep. Mark Parkinson would require all employers within the state to use E-Verify or face fines instead, although the state already has rules requiring E-Verify use for state agencies and contractors.
Currently, there are five states that require all employees to be checked by E-Verify, while there are thirteen others that require state agencies, contractors, or public employers to utilize E-Verify as well.
While its popularity is the rise, it still has not been used at all by many employers or states. According to Krikorian, last year, only one-third of new hires were screened by employers using E-Verify. This means that E-Verify is not being utilized to its full potential, even though it is a relatively easy way to determine whether employees are legally able to work. Why aren’t more employers making use of E-Verify?
Well, according to Krikorian, there are a variety of reasons. First, employees can save money by hiring undocumented workers. Certain businesses, specifically those involved in large-scale Agrobusiness, are dependent on seasonal workers, and undocumented labor is the easiest to employ. It can also be a time-consuming process for employers. In states where it is not required, such as California and New York, employers do not want to use E-Verify unless they are required to do so.
Generally speaking, Republicans support the implementation of E-Verify by all employers in the U.S., while the Democrats do not . There have been previous attempts by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to force employers nationwide to use E-Verify, but they have been blocked by the Senate.
With a Republican-controlled Congress during Obama’s final two years of presidency, I find it highly unlikely that there will be any reform to the E-Verify system. The tension between the Obama administration and Congress is at an all-time high. Both sides are unwilling to trust one another, which makes bipartisan reform on immigration, and specifically the E-Verify system, improbable.
Bipartisanship on immigration seems to be an impossible task nowadays on Capitol Hill, and the E-Verify system is no exception to the trend. However, in state and local governments, its usage is on the rise, and there has been a growth in the number of employers using the service. While I do not think the national government will take up the issue in the next few years, I do believe that there is potential for its popularity boom to continue. However, only time will tell.