E-Verify is a Spectacular Failure and Should be Abandoned

The Wall Street Journal today reported that the E-Verify system, a Federal database designed to identify undocumented workers and prevent their employment, fails to identify such workers 54% of the time! All Federal contractors and thousands of private firms participate in the program and it is touted by anti-immigration activists as a solution to illegal/undocumented immigration.

This recent scandal should finally kill the push to make E-Verify a universal system. Anti-immigration activists from the Center for Immigration Studies to the Heritage Foundation have advocated on behalf of E-Verify. It is interesting that a Conservative think tank like Heritage is advocating for the most invasive work-place regulation since the Roosevelt Administration, but I have no doubt it is from a sincere conviction that illegal/undocumented immigration is a serious problem that requires a serious fix. The Competitive Enterprise Institute and myself completely disagree with that assessment. But even if you think that illegal/undocumented immigration is a serious problem, E-Verify fails to solve the problem.

While it cannot identify illegal/undocumented immigrants 54%, E-Verify could accomplish one thing: ossification of U.S. labor markets. With the official unemployment rate hovering around 10%, burdening employers and employees with additional workplace regulations like E-Verify will make matters worse. Additionally, making the right to work contingent upon government permission will do more to Europeanize U.S. labor markets, where unemployment hovers around 10% normally, than any other proposed regulation.

Alan Greenspan famously compared the anfractuous world of anti-trust regulations to the absurdity of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. If E-Verify becomes the law of the land, American workers and employers will be thrust into a Kafkaesque legal nightmare that will make Wonderland seem like Heaven by comparison.

Hopefully, the failure of E-Verify on such a small scale will discredit the system and prevent any more employers and employees from feeling the weight of its regulatory shackles.