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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Business > Arizona’s E-Verify system is the crystal ball for the nation’s economy

Arizona’s E-Verify system is the crystal ball for the nation’s economy

LatinaLista — If there is a thin, very thin, silver lining to states and local communities taking it upon themselves to enforce immigration law, it is the fact that the legal/economic/humanitarian impact of the passage of such enforcement measures can be seen in a controlled setting.
From that is a pretty good idea as to how it will fly if it were implemented nationally.
One of these measures is the electronic verification system known as E-Verify.
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Right now, there is debate as to if this system of electronically verifying an employee’s eligibility to work, a.k.a. determining if he/she is a citizen, is something good for the country.
In Arizona, where the E-Verify system went into effect on January 1, 2008, initial observations are surfacing that say Congress may want to rethink this program.


As it stands now, a national mandatory E-Verify system would cost $765 million to implement from 2009-2012 but only if it were used to check newly hired employees. If both newly hired employees and current employees’ names were processed in the system then it would cost $838 million over the same period.
Right now, 61,000 employers have registered for E-Verify, yet only half are actively using it. If the program was made mandatory then it would have to service about 7.4 million employers.
So far, only 20,000 of Arizona’s 150,000 employers are enrolled in the E-Verify program. The number, critics contend, is still too small to see the extent of the program’s impact but already employers are finding the program to be an obstacle in hiring much needed employees.
The Immigration Policy Center has documented the problems that have arisen so far in Arizona with the E-Verify system. The following are some of the highlights of the report:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) database that E-Verify taps into has a 4.1 percent error rate, and approximately 10 percent of naturalized U.S. citizens are initially told they are not authorized to work.1 Between October 2006 and March 2007, roughly 3,200 foreign-born U.S. citizens were initially flagged as not-work-authorized.2 As a result of these problems with E-Verify, Arizona workers—including U.S. citizens—have been erroneously flagged as non-work-authorized.
Small businesses have reported that using E-Verify is difficult, particularly businesses that do not have dedicated Human Resources staff or internet access. Enrolling in the system, taking the tutorial, and passing the necessary test takes precious time and may require costly computer upgrades.
Out-of-state businesses are concerned about how the new state law will interact with federal laws that regulate commerce. Out-of-state employers who may have branches or even a single employee in Arizona are subject to competing laws, and a single mistake could lead to tough penalties.
An Arizona Chamber of Commerce spokesperson believes the new law has had a “significant impact” and that workers are leaving the state: “I can’t emphasize enough that the labor shortage has been severe and continues to be severe.”
According to an Arizona Farm Bureau spokesperson, growers cannot find enough workers. In Yuma, where agricultural workers earn up to $19 an hour, growers can’t find enough workers to harvest the lettuce crop, some farmers have stopped planting labor- intensive vegetables, and other farmers are considering getting out of the agriculture business. “If the agricultural industry can’t get laborers, the land will be converted to other uses and we’ll put our food production at the mercy of other countries.”
Some have begun to see how the new E-Verify law has been harmful to the state’s economy, which may lose as much as $10 billion. With its low unemployment rate, there are not enough workers in Arizona to take the jobs abandoned by immigrant workers.
The agricultural, tourism, and construction industries have been particularly hard hit. In an astounding turnaround, some Arizona policymakers — including the leading proponent of the E-Verify law — want the immigrant workers back, and have now proposed a new guestworker program.

In reviewing the highlights, it is easy to see that such a program works — but too well. It red-flags both legal and undocumented residents and puts the burden of clearing up the federal mistake on the worker who isn’t compensated for their time.
However, that’s not what is wrong with the program. What’s wrong, and what Arizona’s implementation uncovered, was just how badly the state and its businesses need immigrant labor.
For some reason, there is a national attitude that businesses deserve all this bureaucratic red tape because they are trying to break the law by hiring people they don’t have to pay minimum wage to or supply health benefits or are abusing these people.
In some cases, there are reports that this is true but of all the thousands of businesses that exist employing undocumented immigrants it stands to reason that not all are abused or are being paid below minimum wage.
The use of immigrant labor in this country satisfies a cycle that the average American doesn’t even realize by how much he/she benefits from. For example:
1. Businesses need to keep costs low to make a profit and at the same time make their customers feel they’re receiving a bargain.
2. Businesses hire undocumented labor because they are willing to work long hours at minimum wage.
3. In turn, businesses pass some of those savings, in the form of low prices, on to their customers.
4. Customers happily consume services and goods when they feel good about the price they are paying for it.
5. Minimum wage employees ensure that prices will be kept what is deemed “affordable” by the average American consumer.
The outline is definitely simplistic but it illustrates what is happening in Arizona and in other places when there are not enough minimum wage employees, or employees who are willing to stay in the hot sun all day, or work in stinky poultry and meat plants, or put up with cleaning after people or taking care of their kids — to fill all these jobs.
By their own admission, state legislators admit they made a mistake and are trying to create their own version of a guest worker program.
If there is a program to consider replicating in the country, it could be the guest worker program.
We won’t know until Arizona does it because Congress, instead of providing the lead on immigration reform, seems to be taking its cue from the states.

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Comment(16)

  • Avatar
    Daniel
    May 15, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    LL: “What’s wrong, and what Arizona’s implementation uncovered, was just how badly the state and its businesses need immigrant labor.”
    HA!
    This is like gun control.
    Some people think it means hitting your target.
    This e-verify reg. will only mess with employers who are rich enough to follow the law.
    Those employers and workers who operate in the subterranean wont be affected.
    lol
    If you think about it, this law only punishes companies that comply with stupid anti-market laws and raises money for the government apparatchiks.
    And we all know how badly the apparatchiks need the money.
    And how much better off we all are that they have OUR money?
    loads. lol.
    Let’s make this clear: WE WORK – GOVERNMENT spends what WE MAKE.
    AFTER THEY TAKE THEIR CUT!
    Sounds like a plan.

  • Avatar
    Horace
    May 15, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    1. Businesses need to keep costs low to make a profit and at the same time make their customers feel they’re receiving a bargain.
    2. Businesses hire undocumented labor because they are willing to work long hours at minimum wage.
    3. In turn, businesses pass some of those savings, in the form of low prices, on to their customers.
    4. Customers happily consume services and goods when they feel good about the price they are paying for it.
    5. Minimum wage employees ensure that prices will be kept what is deemed “affordable” by the average American consumer.”
    To sum it up, illegal aliens are being exploited with sub-prevailing wages and undercutting citizens hourly wages. In order to accept such low wages, illegal aliens have to live in shamefully overcrowded housing, unacceptable to citizens, can’t complain about their situation for fear of being fired, can’t afford insurance for their cars and so drive without it, and can’t afford to pay for their health care services. All that suppose to make us feel better? We’ve heard it all before. So what?

  • Avatar
    Publus
    May 15, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Just the asme tired old rationalization for institutionalizing illegal immigration and rewarding behavior unacceptable to the vast majority of the American public. The Chamber of Commerce is the lead NGO on promoting illegal immigration, so its credibility is nil. The public has got these reprehensible people pegged already, so why bother using them as reference? Marisa, you preach the same old sermon, one that’s has little credibility, except to the same sycophantic choir that includes Daniel, Alex, Evelyn, et al.

  • Avatar
    Daniel
    May 15, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    1. Businesses need to keep costs low to make blah
    2. Businesses hire undocumented labor blah
    3. In turn, businesses pass some blah
    4. Customers happily consume services and goods when they feel good blah
    5. Minimum wage employees ensure that prices will be kept what blah
    To sum it up, i dont own a business nor have i ever. uote>
    man , are you on drugs?

  • Avatar
    EYES OF TEXAS
    May 16, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    The problem may be that these ag jobs are not being advertised publicly or the farmers are not connecting with their local employment agencies. If the farmer is looking for cheap illegal laborers at substandard wages then its his own damn fault his crops are rotting in the field. Fair wages for a fair days work would bring him more legal laborers than he could employ. I would be willing to pay a little more for the produce if it meant American citizens were doing the ag jobs instead of illegal aliens.

  • Avatar
    Texano78704
    May 16, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    I can’t tell you how many decades SSA had my birth year listed incorrectly. It is a good thing this system was not around back then; I would have not been permitted to hold a job because of it.
    Puts a new spin on the phrase, “right to work state.”

  • Avatar
    laura
    May 16, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Dear Marisa,
    I don’t think guestworker programs are good for workers – American or foreign. They tie the worker’s visa, and right to work, to a specific employer. This means that that employer can do what they want to their workers – the workers have to accept it because if not, they lose their visa.
    There are several recent reports of how present-day guestworkers today are being treated like slaves.
    What this does to American workers, is it undercuts their ability to bargain for adherence to safe work standards, improved working conditions and better wages. Because there is always a pool of labor who cannot stand up for improvements. A guestworker system thereby continues and perpetuates the potentially negative effects of undocumented labor on Americans.
    If undocumented workers today could legalize their status and have freedom to change jobs and to bargain for wages and conditions, the potential negative impact of their presence on American workers would disappear.- That is why corporations don’t want that kind of immigration reform. They want the kind that leaves them with no disruption of their labor flow, but with a lot of people without rights or bargaining power. Guestworker programs fit that bill.
    Whoever has the best interests both of Latinos and of Americans in mind, cannot support guestworker programs.

  • Avatar
    Daniel
    May 16, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Laura, I agree. Guest worker is code for bracero.
    Just one thing, though.
    I do not know about any other state, but in CA no one has “the right to work.”

  • Avatar
    Horace
    May 16, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    “I can’t tell you how many decades SSA had my birth year listed incorrectly. It is a good thing this system was not around back then; I would have not been permitted to hold a job because of it.
    Puts a new spin on the phrase, “right to work state.””
    What did you do? You corrected it, didn’t you, Texano? Every employee with incorrect data has to correct it at one time or another, or they may not receive SS benefits, so they may as well do it now as later. This is just another one of those non-issues that advocates of illegal aliens would throw in the way of enforcing our immigration laws. Fortunately, sensable people are on to their agenda by now.

  • Avatar
    Horace
    May 16, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    “I can’t tell you how many decades SSA had my birth year listed incorrectly. It is a good thing this system was not around back then; I would have not been permitted to hold a job because of it.
    Puts a new spin on the phrase, “right to work state.””
    What did you do? You corrected it, didn’t you, Texano? Every employee with incorrect data has to correct it at one time or another, or they may not receive SS benefits, so they may as well do it now as later. This is just another one of those non-issues that advocates of illegal aliens would throw in the way of enforcing our immigration laws. Fortunately, sensable people are on to their agenda by now.

  • Avatar
    Alessandra
    May 17, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Canada has a very good guest worker system which protects the rights of both foreign workers and citizens.
    Foreign workers are brought in and are covered under the labor laws of Canada; they are protected from exploitation and individual workers are even offered health coverage for the duration of their work there. When their work visa expires, they are returned to their home countries. It works for the employer, the employee, and the citizens of Canada.
    As well, there are successful guest worker programs in Europe which also offer protections to the workers, both foreign and citizen.
    Not everyone wants to come here to take up permanent residence. Some want to come temporarily to earn money and then return to their home countries to start their own businesses or build a home. They should have a legal pathway with which to do this which is much more efficient than anything we have in existence at the present time.
    I do agree, though, that safeguards would need to be implemented to protect against exploitation of the foreign workers and to protect the jobs of Americans. That’s one of the problems with the H1b visas–employers claim they cannot find any American workers and then bring in foreign ones to undercut the wages of Americans. This isn’t supposed to happen, but the laws are not enforced (what a surprise).

  • Avatar
    Publius
    May 17, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    “Not everyone wants to come here to take up permanent residence. Some want to come temporarily to earn money and then return to their home countries to start their own businesses or build a home. They should have a legal pathway with which to do this which is much more efficient than anything we have in existence at the present time.”
    The problem with this Alessandra, is that there’s no way to make these people go home if they resist doing so, except for enforcing the immigration laws as they stand, and no one trusts the government to do so. And advocates of illegal aliens will continue to persist in their goal to obtain political power by pushing their citizenship agenda. We are at an impasse.

  • Avatar
    Bill
    June 1, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I am November Patriot, a grass roots association of citizens who feel our political representatives no longer listen to or look after the real interest of citizens and are determined to do something about it.
    We welcome legal immigrants; we need you in our work force but do it legally. Regardless of your legal status, please obey our laws they are now yours too. (I speak for only me)
    Bill

  • Avatar
    Marisa Treviño
    June 1, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Hi Bill, I understand your sentiment but that is what the immigration reform debate is all about — entering the country with the proper paperwork is next to impossible to accomplish in a timely manner. I don’t advocate illegal immigration because life is too hard for these people who have to live their lives worried about being stopped by police or immigration officials. Yet, the way the system is now is so flawed that what motivates a person to come over in the first place, poverty, would likely kill them before they could enter the country legally. Saying Mexico should take care of their own is a lost cause for the time being. Who isn’t going to seek out a place where there is plentiful work, they pay you in dollars (still higher than the peso) and you don’t have to worry, for the most part, about corrupt officials. We all need to work together towards making the system reflect the realities of the situation and not what we just wish them to be.

  • Avatar
    rob
    August 27, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    its a complicated issue there is not a perfect solution.100% of American low wage earners are being greatly dammaged becouse immigration laws are not being enforced. when a system (e-verify)has a 99.5% accuracy rate in identifing illegal workers i call this a huge step in the right direction.
    company owners that obey the law are being financially devistated.
    company owners that break the law are being rewarded with high profits.
    legal construction, farm & hospitaliy workers have left places like CA, AZ & NV so why wouldnt there be a worker shortage when our nation laws are finally enforced.
    past amnesties for people who enter this country illegally has led to people thinking they can illegally enter this country. this is why amnesty is not part of the solution.
    the Hispanic Americans i work with dont care that the people taking their job and lowering their wages are mostly hispanic, they hate it just the same.
    its sad that elite hispnics with funding from big bussiness are hurting all working class Americans.
    American workers rely on supply and demand for their goods and sevices. when you flood the low wage earning American workers with an endless supply of foreign workers willing to work for a non-living wage Americans get damaged. and you wonder why Americans cant afford health care, go to the dentist or have the spare time to properly raise their children.

  • Avatar
    Luis Armenta
    January 21, 2009 at 9:55 am

    i think that the e-verify is wack because u dont get to work if you are not a citizen

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