For years, we've heard elected officials tout the e-verify system as a way to prevent illegal immigrants from working in the U.S. But the system isn't as fool-proof as it's cracked up to be, according to some immigration experts. "E-Verify sounds like a silver bullet, it sounds like it's going to be effective at preventing illegal immigrants from working, but in practice it's just as bad as the previous system, and employers ignore it," says Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst with the Cato Institute.
The E-Verify system is designed to allow employers to check an applicant's background information against a national database, which then tells them if the employee is eligible to work. But the issue is that millions of employees simply use stolen identities, social security numbers, or tax identification numbers in order to trick the E-Verify system. "One of the problems with E-Verify is that it's not even good at identifying illegal immigrants," says Nowrasteh. "It fails to do so about half the time."
Indeed, as of 2010 the Social Security Administration estimated that 1.8 million immigrants were working with fake or stolen Social Security cards. At the same time, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says in the last fiscal year, nearly 99 percent of employees entered into the E-Verify system were cleared to work.
In Texas, E-Verify is not required for private businesses, which has allowed many to continue hiring illegals.
Meanwhile, many elected leaders continue to push for expanded or even mandatory use of E-Verify. But Nowrasteh believes that is just a smokescreen. "E-Verify doesn't work, so it's not going to cause any economic problems, but a lot of people think it does, they think of it as a silver bullet," he says. "So it's pretty easy and low-cost for politicians to propose E-Verify as a solution to illegal immigration."