Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, a group that meets every 20 years to recommend changes to Florida’s state constitution, yesterday rejected a proposal to add mandatory E-Verify to the ballot next November. The American Business Immigration Coalition and Immigration Partnership & Coalition Fund led the fight against the proposal (full disclosure: those groups used Cato’s research in their efforts to stop E-Verify and I did have contact with them during the Florida debate). The most convincing arguments against E-Verify were those that highlighted its inaccuracies, potential damage to the economy, and that it would not even effectively restrict illegal immigrant access to employment.
Just to recap, E-Verify is a federal electronic eligibility for employment verification system whereby employers are supposed to check the identities of new hires against government databases to guarantee that they are legally eligible to work. Four states have mandated E-Verify for all new hires, several other states have mandated it for some hires, and the federal government requires it for some occupations.
Democrats and Republicans have both embraced E-Verify for different reasons in recent years. Republicans did so because they believe that it is a useful enforcement mechanism and Democrats because they believe that they can trade it for a more generous legalization or other reforms to the legal immigration system. Indeed, increasingly bitter partisan disagreements over immigration policy have not affected support for E-Verify. Perhaps they should.
There are many good reasons for Democrats to oppose E-Verify nationally and on the state level. The first is that E-Verify is an immigration enforcement tool that disproportionately returns incorrect results for legal immigrants, Hispanic Americans, and those who have hyphenated last names (most likely to be women). An incorrect result can temporarily bar a worker from working or, if the proper legal procedures aren’t followed, push the worker afflicted into long-term unemployment. Democrats increasingly argue that they represent those three groups so they have political incentives to remove regulatory barriers that keep them from gaining employment.