Opinion: E-Verify and 'Self Check' Alone Not Enough to Grapple with Illegal Immigration

The federal government developed a program called E-Verify several years ago, giving employers the option of using an easy way to supposedly find out if an applicant was legally allowed to work in the United States. This is a free program, that these employers can log into online. They punch applicant information in, the system checks the information provided by the applicant against government records and gives you a response as to whether it appears that the applicant is using legal information or not.

The federal government has lacked the will to mandate the use of this program nationwide, but some states are taking the initiative themselves. A few require it under some circumstances, like Colorado with state contractors and Georgia for all public employees and contractors. Arizona, Utah and Mississippi require it for all employers, although some businesses with few employees are exempt. With how easy the process is, it just doesn’t make any sense at all to not require this of all employers, all over the country.

But with how easy the program is to circumvent, even with over two hundred thousand employers using the program, the federal government has been on a hunt to find another way to verify applicants easily, cheaply and more accurately. Stemming from this effort, the federal government is starting to roll out a program that applicants can voluntarily use to verify their legal status.

This so called ‘Self Check’ program, developed in conjunction with a unit of Equifax Inc. (yes, the same Equifax that does credit ratings) seems to be geared toward immigrants who are here legally, to help speed up the process for them. It uses demographic and financial data to make it harder for people to fake who they are when applying for jobs. They’re beginning to roll this, similarly voluntary, program out in Washington D.C., Virginia, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Mississippi in the next few weeks, with the rest of the country coming in within a year.

But if this works so well, or at least significantly better than E-Verify, why not use the same general system on all workers? Why not require this of all employers, or perhaps all employers with over a handful of workers, all over the country?

Frankly, I don’t think either party wants to push for something that would actually do a better job of finding out if people applying for jobs are doing so illegally. The GOP is pushing for E-Verify to be mandatory, but it is easy to get around. The Democrats don’t even want that.

What we really need is a comprehensive deal that includes something like this, along with a guest worker program and real enforcement for those who still try to work outside of the system. Doing this piecemeal will not solve the immigration and identity theft/fraud issues that this new system is designed to help with.