Tea party, conservative groups call on Congress to reject E-Verify

immigration seal
(image: New Mexico Independent)

Image by: Matt MahurinAn open letter from leaders of the groups Take Back Washington, Tea Party Nation, Downsize DC, GOProud, the D.C. Tea Party and other conservative groups calls on members of Congress to reject the Legal Workforce Act, a bill sponsored by U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that would mandate the use of the electronic identification system E-Verify by all businesses nationwide.

The letter, which identifies its signatories as “pro-freedom, limited government, and Constitutional government organizations,” lists five reasons for opposing E-Verify:

We are alarmed that E-Verify poses a threat to both the Constitution and every law-abiding citizen of this country because it:

1. Creates a de facto national I.D. System – even for citizens;

2. Violates individual civil liberties such as the right to work and free speech;

3. Mandates a costly job-killing regulatory burden that cripples small business

4. Requires employers to become enforcement agents of the federal government;

5. Encourages identify theft of law-abiding citizens

While the letter reflects fears of an overreaching federal government typical of modern conservative ideology, many of the points raised in the letter are echoed by liberal Democrats and immigrant rights activists who have consistently opposed mandatory implementation of E-Verify.

Smith’s Judiciary Committee began markup of the bill Thursday. The Huffington Post reports that at least one Republican on the committee expressed worry that mandating E-Verify would be particularly damaging to the farmers in his district:

“I just can’t abide with what we’re doing to my state in terms of the temporary need for temporary workers,” Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said. “It would devastate agriculture. … If we do not recognize the demonstrated need for foreign workers, and I’m talking about temporary foreign workers in the agriculture field, we’re kidding ourselves.”

Laws requiring E-Verify have passed in multiple states and were found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, as was penalizing employers that knowingly hired undocumented workers by revoking their business licenses. Already there have been multiple reports of immigrant workers fleeing states which have recently enacted similar enforcement laws, leading to labor shortages that confirm Lungren’s fears.

The Center for American Progress estimates in a recent report (PDF) that setting up E-Verify could cost small businesses anywhere from $1,254 to $24,422. The report also predicts that 0.5 percent of legal American workers will be mistakenly identified as undocumented workers and fired if E-Verify is implemented nationwide, a proportion that may seem relatively small but would amount to 770,000 people unjustly losing their jobs.