by Bob Quasius
This letter was sent to every Iowa legislator who sponsored HF2156, a law to mandate e-verify for all Iowa employers regardless of size.
I am writing to you regarding HB2156, a proposed law which would mandate the use of e-verify in Iowa. This bill, if passed into law, would have significant unintended consequences which far outweigh any benefits. We recommend that you withdraw your sponsorship of this bill.
Mandatory e-verify does not address the root cause of illegal immigration, which is a legal immigration system and guest worker systems that do not meet the needs of our economy. Even if successful in driving undocumented immigrants from Iowa, this bill will do nothing to provide guest worker visas to replace those workers, if any, who will leave Iowa. Many of the jobs that would be vacated would either be unfilled, or businesses will close or move elsewhere.
There are Americans willing to fill low-skilled jobs, but Americans are on average much better educated than during the last major overhaul of immigration in 1965, and the numbers of Americans willing to work in these jobs is much less than the demand. Our legal immigration system simply has simply not kept up with our demographics. One perspective to seven million undocumented immigrant workers is that the seven million represents the cumulative shortage of guest worker or immigrant visas, rather than lack of enforcement. Enforcement-only solutions will not fix the underlying problem, an immigration system no longer connected with economic realities. This is a problem that must be fixed by Congress, not the states.
States that have implemented harsh crackdowns, such as Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama, have seen their economies severely impacted, especially agriculture, when immigrant workers leave, but employers found they could not fill their positions, even in states where there are high unemployment levels. A recent report by the University of Alabama found Alabama’s harsh immigration law cost the state’s economy up to $10.8 Billion. Georgia and Alabama farmers suffered massive crop losses when not enough farm workers could be found at harvest time, because so many undocumented migrant workers bypassed their states for other states without the harsh laws. Georgia responded with a program to put parolees to work on farms, but the vast majority of parolees quit within hours, claiming the working conditions were too hard for them.
E-Verify is a Flawed System
Any information system is only as good as the underlying data, and DHS and social security databases are proven to be flawed. For example, legal immigrants and guest workers, as well as naturalized citizens, are 15-20 times more likely subject to be rejected than native born citizens, requiring them to go through a lengthy and bureaucratic appeals process, meanwhile subjecting them and their employers to considerable inconvenience.
Intel Corporation wrote to the General Services Administration about widespread problems using e-verify. We do have similar high tech employers in Iowa who depend on foreign born scientists and engineers. Some sample quotes:
Although USCIS claims that “[l]ess than one percent of all work-authorized employees receive a tentative non-confirmation through E-Verify” (statement of USCIS Acting Director Jonathan Scharfen, USCIS press release, May 5, 2008), Intel’s actual experience is a TNC rate of a stunning 12.21% for the year to date (143 of 1363 inquiries). All of Intel’s TNC’s have ultimately been cleared by E-Verify as work authorized, but only after significant investment of time and money, lost productivity and, for our affected foreign national staff, many hours of confusion, worry and upset.
E-Verify also issued an FNC to a foreign student with Optional Practical Training employment authorization because USCIS put the wrong validity dates on the employee’s Employment Authorization Document and confirmed an E-Verify FNC when the employee refused to pay an additional $340 filing fee to have the government correct its own error. Despite USCIS records showing the employee had both a valid I-20 and an I-797 approval notice for the correct OPT dates, E-Verify said she was not work authorized. Again, only because Intel representatives persisted was that situation reversed and the employee’s employment continued.
E-Verify is Expensive and will Lead to National ID and Loss of Privacy
According to a report by the conservative CATO Institute,
Creating an accurate EEV system would re-quire a national identification (ID) system, costing about $20 billion to create and hundreds of millions more per year to operate. Even if it were free, the country should reject a national ID system. It would cause law-abiding American citizens to lose more of their privacy as government records about them grew and were converted to untold new purposes. “Mission creep” all but guarantees that the federal government would use an EEV system to extend federal regulatory control over Americans’ lives even further.
Just as Iowa rejected REAL ID, for many of the same reasons Iowa should reject mandatory e-verify.
E-Verify Can Readily be Circumvented by Undocumented Immigrants
E-Verify checks for a match of names and social security numbers. Undocumented immigrants can readily circumvent e-verify by using the name and social security number of another person, such as a family member, a dead person, or rented, bought, or stolen from another person. DHS databases only include biometric information for those who have been in their system at some point in time, such as legal immigrants or non-immigrants, or naturalized citizens. Native born Americans have never been in DHS databases, and so there is no biometric information either. An undocumented immigrant with fake IDs with real names and social security numbers can still pass e-verify, while law abiding immigrants and citizens are sometimes hurt by errors.
A recent report “Secure Communities by the Numbers: An Analysis of Demographics and Due Process” found 3,600 U.S. Citizens have been arrested through the secure communities program, which cross-checks fingerprints taken by police against DHS databases. In other words, even with biometric information like fingerprints, DHS databases are still frequently in error, and subject law abiding citizens and legal immigrants to extreme inconvenience and sometimes humiliation, as with U.S. Citizens held for days, sometimes weeks, because of inaccuracies in DHS databases.
E-Verify Cost vs. Benefits are Dubious at Best
Intel failed to identify a single undocumented immigrant using e-verify, yet expended enormous man-hours resolving e-verify issues with work authorized employees, even one U.S. born citizen. From Intel’s letter to GSA:
In its short experience with E-Verify, Intel has had a TNC converted to Final Non-Confirmation notice for a U.S. citizen who held a U.S. passport and District of Columbia birth certificate, because her Social Security record erroneously reflected foreign birth. She visited her local Social Security office three times during the TNC process, and each time returned to work with an SSA notice confirming that her name and number matched, but this was to no avail in E-Verify, as SSA did not appreciate the need to correct its data error. It was only after the FNC was issued, and after hours of phone work by Intel representatives, that E-Verify staff identified the error and directed correction of the Social Security records, thereby reversing the FNC.
Small employers typically do not have a human resource manager, and mandatory e-verify is especially burdensome for these employers. Other states that have passed mandatory e-verify have a floor under which small employers are not mandated to participate, while other states phase-in e-verify with larger employers facing a mandate first, then progressively smaller employers, often with the smallest employers exempted altogether. HF2156 exempts no employer and there is no phase-in.
HF2156 Opens the Door to Discriminatory Enforcement
Although HF2156 includes a provision stating “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color, or national origin.” Approximately 10% of Americans have a degree of animosity towards Hispanics, and one unintended consequence is that unfounded complaints based on factors such as Spanish language usage, attire, etc. are likely. Under the bill, the only complaints where the sole information is race, color, or national origin are precluded from investigation, and anonymous complaints are permitted, rendering the prohibition against frivolous or false complaints useless as there would be little to no accountability.
To illustrate this point, consider the practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on handling complaints of undocumented immigrants. From a recent DOJ report:
Sheriff Arpaio received a letter in August 2008 expressing dismay that the employees of a Sun City McDonald’s did not speak English and suggesting that Sheriff Arpaio should “check this out” and “check out Sun City.” Because the letter only alleged that a business had Spanish-speaking employees, the only basis it provided for a police response was the biased assumption that speaking Spanish was indicative of undocumented status. Though the letter did not describe unlawful conduct of any kind, Sheriff Arpaio wrote a note on the letter directing a response thanking the writer “for the info” and stating that he would “look into it.” Sheriff Arpaio also forwarded the letter to MCSO Enforcement Chief Brian Sands with the handwritten instruction “for our operation.” Two weeks later, MCSO conducted an immigration operation in Sun City.
HF2156 does not exclude complaints based on foreign language usage, though foreign language usage does not necessarily mean the speaker is undocumented. Many Americans mistakenly believe that English proficiency is a requirement for immigrating to the U.S., when in fact it is not, and even many immigrants and naturalized citizens still speak their native tongue daily, especially in the presence of those who have limited English proficiency. Also, a complaint may be rooted in bias, but the person making the complaint may simply omit their motivation to ensure their complaint is acted upon, and/or make an anonymous complaint to evade accountability for a baseless allegation.
One unintended consequence of this bill is that businesses that tend to hire unskilled employees including many immigrants may become subject to false allegations based solely on the fact they have many legal immigrants speaking foreign languages working for them, much as happened to McDonald’s restaurants in Sun City, AZ, where Hispanic U.S. Citizens were arrested along with undocumented immigrants.
Some employers may simply decide to stop hiring legal immigrants, which is unlawful. Recently a restaurant owner in Georgia admitted he pre-screens job applicants for those with foreign sounding names, rather than hiring them and perhaps failing e-verify. Employers cannot use e-verify until actually hiring someone, and though it is unlawful to discriminate, many prospective employees likely never know they were quietly rejected for something as simple as a foreign sounding name and presumption they would not pass e-verify checks.
Despite working on E-Verify since 1996, the system is still too flawed to implement without creating considerable hardships for both employers and law abiding legal immigrants, naturalized citizens, and some native born citizens. The costs and problems far outweigh the benefits, and Iowa should not implement mandatory e-verify. This especially hurts high tech employers, such as Intel, who necessarily need many foreign born scientists, engineers, and computer programmers due to the nature of their business.
Please feel free to call or e-mail me to discuss our concerns.
Thank you for your consideration.
Bob Quasius, Sr.
Cafe Con Leche Republicans is a national GOP group of Republicans who welcome New Americans. Our members and leaders are predominately Hispanic, though we define ourselves through our mission and guiding principles rather than ethnicity, and we welcome anyone who supports our mission as a member or supporter. Our leadership is limited to Republicans. We have chapters in Arizona, Nevada, California, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida.
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