May 4, 2015 12:36PM

E‑Verify in the States

Many state legislatures are proposing to expand E‑Verify – a federal government‐​run electronic system that allows or forces employers to check the identity of new hires against a government database. In a perfect world, E‑Verify tells employers whether the new employee can legally be hired. In our world, E‑Verify is a notoriously error‐​prone and unreliable system.

E‑Verify mandates vary considerably across states. Currently, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina have across the board mandates for all employers. The state governments of Georgia, Utah, and North Carolina force all businesses with at least 10, 15, and 25 employees, respectively, to use E‑Verify. Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas mandate‐​Verify for public employees and state contractors, while Idaho and Virginia mandate E‑Verify for public employees. The remaining states either have no state‐​wide mandates or, in the case of California, limit how E‑Verify can be used by employers.

Despite E‑Verify’s wide use in the states and problems, some state legislatures are considering forcing it on every employer within their respective states. 

In late April, the North Carolina’s House of Representatives passed a bill (HB 318) 80 – 39 to lower the threshold for mandated E‑Verify to businesses with five or more employees. HB 318 is now moving on to the North Carolina Senate where it could pass. Nevada’s AB 172 originally included an E‑Verify mandate that the bill’s author removed during the amendment process. Nebraska’s LB611 would have mandated E‑Verify for all employers in the state. LB611 has since stalled since a hostile hearing over in February.

E‑Verify imposes a large economic cost on American workers and employers, does little to halt unlawful immigration because it fails to turn off the “jobs magnet,” and is an expansionary threat to American liberties. Those harms are great while the benefits are uncertain – at best. At a minimum, state legislatures should thoroughly examine the costs and supposed benefits of E‑Verify before expanding or enacting mandates.

Scott Platton helped to write this blog post.