E-Verify is gaining in popularity, even in states that have tried to limit its use. But it will take a federal bill like Lamar Smith's Legal Workforce Act to require every employer to use the free, online program. Employers who use E-Verify give it high marks and recommend it to others but too few sign up for it unless they are required to do so.
California and Illinois governors have signed laws to prohibit local governments from mandating E-Verify except as required by the federal government. Hundreds of businesses previously required by local mandate to use E-Verify now have the option of dropping it. Instead, both states show slight increases in E-Verify use.
The Contra Costa Times reports that "the number of California job sites using E-Verify to scrutinize their workers -- usually on the first few days on the job -- increased by 37 percent to more than 90,000 from a year ago, according to government records. The state has more job sites using the electronic verification system than any other" (California employers embrace E-Verify, October 29, 2011).
According to the Rockford Register Star, "the number of Illinois-based companies using the system has grown from 1,942 in October 2008 to 7,209 in October 2011" (Program that checks work eligibility sees wider use in Illinois, October 30, 2011).
If employers disliked E-Verify, they would drop out when given the opportunity. But employers who were forced to sign on by local governments have chosen to stick with the program even when they are no longer required to do so.
I appreciate the reluctance of some employers to sign on to a new, unfamiliar system. But the California and Illinois examples demonstrate that few employers ever regret participating in E-Verify. They key is getting them to sign up in the first place.
Despite E-Verify's increased popularity, only 2 percent of employers in California and Illinois are signed up. Together, those two states are home to approximately one-quarter of the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the United States. We will never get a handle on illegal immigration unless we can end illegal employment in these two states.
E-Verify victories in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama combined with defeats in California and Illinois to result in a situation where employers in some states have an unfair advantage over employers in competing states. In an ironic twist, the anti-enforcement victories in California and Illinois make a strong case for Smith's bill. Major business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, and the National Association of Home Builders among others agree that universal E-Verify would level the playing field for law-abiding employers. They broken with the pro-amnesty coalition to back the Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 2885, which would require 100 percent of U.S. employers to use E-Verify within two years.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Nov 10th 2011 @ 12:22pm EST