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E-Verify Lessons From Arizona

Ross Tappan used to manage a dairy in Mesa, Ariz., that switched to using E-Verify.


Aired 1/24/13

Lessons from Arizona on E-Verify.

— Several states now require every employer to run newly hired workers through E-Verify, an online, federal program that cross-checks identity information against federal databases. Arizona’s mandate was the first in the country to include all employers.

As Congress gears up to take on immigration, many observers believe one debate will be over whether to include mandatory E-Verify, or a system like it, in a comprehensive reform bill.

What lessons has Arizona learned from using the program for the past five years?

At the time the E-Verify requirement took effect in Arizona in 2008, Ross Tappan was the manager at a dairy in Mesa, Ariz. with more than 6,000 cows. Tappan was overseeing up to 90 employees, many of them Latino immigrants.

“Everything from milking cows, to driving tractors to feed them, cleaning out the stalls, breeding cows,” Tappan said of his workers. He recently left the dairy to sell feed.

Back then, Tappan didn’t want to risk losing his critical workforce in an immigration raid.

So before starting with E-Verify, he did an internal audit of his current employee’s files. He found many workers’ Social Security Numbers didn’t check out.

“They had to either get it straight or we couldn't employ them,” he said.

He lost 12 people that way. And from that point forward, he turned away new hires who couldn’t pass E-Verify.

Law-abiding managers like Tappan are at least part of the reason that some unauthorized immigrants did leave the state.

But not everyone took the new mandate as seriously. A third of new hires in Arizona weren’t checked through E-Verify according to an analysis by the libertarian think tank, Cato Institute.

E-Verify was queried 982,593 times in Arizona in 2011, while census data shows there were 1.48 million new hires in that period.

One reason for the lack of compliance is Arizona’s mandate doesn’t have teeth. It’s one of a number of lessons learned in the past five years here.

“Arizona was the test case and we ended up debugging the system for everyone else,” said Julie Pace, a Phoenix employment attorney.

For instance, the program has been criticized for providing both false positives, and false negatives.

While 98.3 percent of people currently pass E-Verify immediately, the 1.7 percent of people who are flagged include a small number of legal, eligible workers.

Furthermore, E-Verify isn’t immune to fraud, particularly identity theft, though U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is working on improvements. Currently, some undocumented immigrants do pass by using the identity of a legal worker.

“We had one name that was used 266 times in the country to pass E-Verify and let them work,” Pace said.

Employers that use E-Verify in the hiring process display a sign in their office.

According to Pace, a key lesson from Arizona’s experience with E-Verify is that it cannot be effective on a national scale as long as their are millions of undocumented workers.

“Because then people have to keep lying to work in this country,” Pace said. “So you have to have a visa program for service workers. You have to. Or you will crash the entire economy of this country.”

One proposal to beef up the integrity of the system is to add biometric data, such as fingerprints.

But that would be costly, and is a red flag for privacy and civil liberties advocates.

“I just don’t think the government is very good at making or maintaining large databases like it needs to do, if it wants to make this system work,” said Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst at Cato Institute. “I also don’t really trust the government to make such a large database of all of our information for any reason, let alone, immigration enforcement.”

And in the end, Nowrasteh says, determined undocumented immigrants will find a way around any employment verification system.

“All it does is to make it more difficult for the rest of us, who are law abiding workers, to get lawfully employed,” Nowrasteh said.

One thing E-Verify can do is offer employers some peace of mind when immigration agents come knocking.

Federal I-9 audits of employment paperwork aim to crack down on employers for hiring undocumented immigrants. They can be accompanied by hefty fines –- and in extreme cases -- even criminal charges.

These audits have skyrocketed in recent years from 757 in the last two years of the Bush administration, to 5,516 in the past two years under President Barack Obama.

Among the 146 Arizona businesses audited in 2011 was the dairy Tappan managed in Mesa.

Two Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents showed up two years ago.

“They gave us a list of everything we had to do, pull all our records, make copies of it,” Tappan said.

Using E-Verify made the audit less painful.

ICE identified ten more employees who were working illegally, but if the dairy hadn’t used E-Verify for the past few years, Tappan assumes there would have been more.

The agents didn’t fine the dairy, and Tappan believes that could have been in part due to using E-Verify, since it showed the dairy had tried to hire lawfully.

Special Feature Broken Border: Immigration Reform in the Southwest

Our series, Broken Border, peels apart the complex tangle of the immigration debate to explore what matters.

Tappan did have to say goodbye to those workers, which he said was hard on everyone.

But afterward he said he felt relief, knowing for certain his workforce was legitimate.

“You don’t worry about, oh my gosh, getting raided and getting called, ‘Hey we have cows to milk and no one is here.’”

Nationwide, only an estimated 7 percent of companies are currently using E-Verify.

How the program could be implemented nationally, and what changes would be part of that mandate, is likely to be a key part of the upcoming immigration reform debate.

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Avatar for user 'jskdn'

jskdn | January 26, 2013 at 11:32 a.m. ― 4 years ago

This Berkeley Journalism School graduate choose to use as experts someone from the Cato Institute and a lawyer that represents employers. I doubt she would have selected a right wing foundation and lawyer defending business for most topics but since she undoubted shares in their illegal immigration agenda, they served her purpose, which isn't journalism.

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | January 31, 2013 at 7:26 p.m. ― 4 years ago

Department of Homeland Security, combined with ICE has proven they are incompetent at monitoring the arrival visa visitors, by facing the fact that an estimated 46 percent of illegal aliens overstay their visas. Will this be the same ineptness in handling Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, abbreviated as DACA? Are the 1.8 million children of illegal aliens going to cause as many immigration problems as the first blanket amnesty, played on the American people in 1986.

If it’s anything like the unenforced Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) exhibited after the 1986 Amnesty, I will be amazed? Those young kid who have been intentionally smuggled into America to claim citizenship by their illegal alien mother; now called “DREAMER’S” will be able to get a driver’s license, an employment permit and a temporary Social Security Number. Once having these in their possession how many will even be bothered to even renew their so-called deferred action. Giving Drivers Licenses to DREAMERS is asking for trouble, as if you read the statistics from sites as “The Dark side of Illegal Immigration”, you will be able to view drunken driver data, from nationwide surveys. WHY EVEN CARE AS THEY LIKE THEIR PARENTS KNOW FULL WELL THAT IMMIGRATION LAWS ARE JUST LAX POLICIES, WITH HARDLY ANY REAL ENFORCEMENT AS OTHER STRICT COUNTRIES? THEY ARE FULLY AWARE THAT ARE LAWS ARE IGNORED BY CORPORATIONS AND BUSINESSES AND THAT ICE AGENTS HAVE LIMITED RESOURCES. LATELY WE HAVE SEEN FOR OURSELVES THE OUTRAGE OF ILLEGAL ALIENS, BRANDISHING FOREIGN FLAGS AND YELLING ABUSE IN OUR STREETS, ACCUMULATING CROWDS AT POLITICAL GATHERINGS, TRYING TO AGITATE AMERICANS BY PROCLAIMING THAT THEY ARE UNDOCUMENTED, AND EVEN TRYING TO INTIMIDATE THE POLICE. THEN EVEN DARING ICE AGENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT TO ARREST THEM?

The government is not even listening to the U.S public; otherwise they would have drafted a law making entry without inspection a felony? Just go to show you how careless they are, or was this premeditated conspiracy by the elites to really do nothing? It’s the same with the 2006 President Bush Secure fence Act. It like a sad game politicians play with people’s lives, since an underestimated number of criminal elements that have easily slipped through the border fence. Then there are investigative reporters, who have visited the border fence, usually are not shown or never leave the fenced areas to hundreds of miles of open sections? Further afield there is no fence—nothing but occasional geological boundary marker instructing the onlooker that is the boundary between the US and South America countries. Instead of spending infinite taxpayer’s money on foreign nationals, use it to build the REAL George Bush double layer fence with one equipped with chain link concertina razor wire and the internal one, as exists on the exterior within the perimeters of Israel? It works for Israel it would be as successful for us; all we need is the plans.

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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | January 31, 2013 at 7:28 p.m. ― 4 years ago

The DREAM ACT will likely be another dismal failure, as it will be Home Security poor oversight, probably taking years to recognize that this young person’s “temporary” status has been terminated. Just as visitors or otherwise tourists to our sovereign country, you would expect with state-of-the-art innovations as a biometric entry and exiting tracking system could be used? It seems that the ICE administration of Homeland Security is still behind the times, when only 3 percent of resources according to GOA, only 8000 overstay have been placed in custody since 2006.

I am afraid that American citizens and legal residents have been overlooked in the name of greed and commerce. We must face the fact, one way or another that a good majority of politicians have their grimy hands in the cookie jar. The cookie jar is full of wealthy special interest cash and all the special favors. What we really need is the reenactment of the 1924 QUOTA SYSTEM, so every country got a fair share of the immigration pie? Instead what we now have is abject poverty, uneducated, uncontrollable FAMILY CHAIN MIGRATION that is causing hundreds of billions of dollars taken by the IRS to pay for the children’s, children of the great Reagan amnesty disaster. And if Obama get his way, we will be facing the same possibility and consequences? If the American people of any political membership think that for one bloody minute people will not be clamoring to arrive here for any comprehensive immigration deadline, you really have been drinking Cool Aid laced with a sleeping draft of Ambian? Ever thought of how much money is sent as remittances out of the country, which should be going into state coffers?


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Avatar for user 'Brittanicus'

Brittanicus | January 31, 2013 at 7:29 p.m. ― 4 years ago

These morons in Washington refuse to take the pressure off, by voting in the “Legal Workforce Act” to aid in closing a loophole of illegal workers, stealing some of the 23 million American jobs. Likewise the Birthright Citizenship bill that if passed would stop the growing billions of dollars taking from American taxpayers payroll checks. This financial support for the new citizenship of illegal alien children that taxpayers cover because the stupid court system has fabricated that not only the descendants of slaves, but infants of illegal migrants and immigrants have a right to citizenship status? The cost is growing in medical care, school education and other benefits, destroying our own children’s future, because the majorities of these kids come from non English speaking families and are retarding nationwide school education performance. Go to California where the children enrolled there have greater proportions of foreign nationals than citizen offspring.

Call or otherwise contact the Senate office or the Congressional House of Representatives by going to United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Government pages should also be in your telephone book and switchboard operator will connect you directly with your desired party.


President and “Bi-Partisan” Group Want to Reward Criminals With path to Citizenship
by Stephen Frank on 01/30/2013 of California Political News & Views
Who says crime does not pay. All you have to do issue stolen or false ID, steal jobs, health care and education from honest people. Lie on job applications—all of which would put us in jail. Do these criminals acts long enough and the President and self proclaimed Republican and Democrat “leaders” want to reward illegal aliens for a lifetime of crime with a path to U.S. citizenship.
If you murder enough people maybe the same folks would give you a job in law enforcement. Honest immigrants are demeaned by this effort. Why apply for citizenship—violate the law and you can do it anyway. Oh, this group says a requirement of “citizenship” is to learn English. Does that mean they will stop publishing ballots and other government forms in dozens of languages?

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