June 23, 2018
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Worker Verification Only Works in A Working Immigration System


Statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director


WashingtonDC - Today, the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship holds a hearing to examine changes to improve our current employment verification system.  The hearing, chaired by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), is part of a series of investigative hearings intended to point the way towards comprehensive reform of our immigration system and legislation Sen. Schumer intends to introduce by Labor Day.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization inWashington.


Today's Senate hearing is more evidence that Congress is on track for moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform this fall.  Sen. Schumer's hearing is a precursor to the introduction of an immigration reform bill by Labor Day and we are hoping to see parallel progress and activity on the House side soon.


Employment verification will be a key element of any comprehensive immigration reform proposal that moves forward because ensuring compliance with our laws is the primary benefit of comprehensive reform to the American people. An effective verification solution that serves and protects all workers and employers in the economy can only be achieved through a broader reform to the immigration system. 


Expanding or mandating the existing E-Verify system, without a mechanism that legalizes workers or allows workers to enter the country legally is a recipe for failure.  Millions of workers who are currently on-the-books and paying their full share of taxes could be driven off-the-books and into the underground economy.  Furthermore, E-Verify in its current form does a poor job of preventing unauthorized workers from working, and goes too far by preventing citizens and legal immigrants from working due to systemic data-error problems and poorly defined avenues to correct inaccurate data.  These problems only multiply if E-Verify is extended to the more than 60 million new hires in the U.S. economy each year, and will primarily affect U.S. citizens who currently comprise 85% of the workforce.


For worker verification to function properly and not impede the economy, it needs to be accurate and efficient, applied in a non-discriminatory manner, protect privacy and have due process protections, and guarantee that authorized workers won't be shut out of jobs.  The program must protect workers against misuse of the system by bad-faith employers, minimize workplace disruptions and protect good-faith employers.  Adding biometric components to any worker verification scheme should be considered very carefully and weighed against the issues and costs that arise in this context.  Overreliance on technology to create a magic bullet solution to our broken immigration system is a risky proposition. 


The good news is that the Senate is making progress to abandon failed patchwork approaches to immigration and is bringing together the elements of reform that must move together into a comprehensive package.  Congress needs to implement workable solutions and enact policies that move us forward and that put our labor market and our immigration system back on legal footing.


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