The Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act (SAVE) was introduced by Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Democrat. The bill does nothing to increase legal immigration, which is the only realistic way to decrease illegal immigration. Instead, it throws more money at a mandatory employment verification system (E-Verify) for the nation's six million employers.
The Democrats never intended to pass the measure, mind you. While collecting co-sponsors, Mr. Shuler assured Democrats there would be no action this year. The idea was to provide election-year cover for House Democrats from red states, letting them cite the Shuler bill as proof they are cracking down on illegal immigration.
However, Republicans saw an opportunity to embarrass Democrats by forcing a floor vote on the SAVE Act. Restrictionists Brian Bilbray and Tom Tancredo began a discharge petition drive in early March, eventually gathering 189 of the 218 signatures needed to force a House vote on the bill. Democrats are now backing off the legislation, lest it divide their caucus. ...
This political theater notwithstanding, the SAVE Act deserves to die on the merits. E-Verify is pitched as a check on undocumented workers. But this law would require that every worker in the country run this new verification gauntlet to change jobs.
E-Verify is currently a voluntary pilot program for new workers. About 50,000 employers use it, and studies have revealed problems galore, partly because the Social Security Administration (SSA) database on which it relies contains an error rate of around 4%. With about 55 million new hires in the U.S. annually, a 4% error rate means erroneously flagging some two million people each year. They would then have to visit their local SSA office to prove in person that they have permission to work in their native land.
Keep in mind that the SSA isn't exactly a model of speed and efficiency. By its own admission 50% of calls to branch offices and 25% to the 1-800 number aren't even answered. And what of calls that do get through? It currently takes, on average, more than 500 days to get a decision on a disability appeal. Even if E-Verify were ready for prime time, there's little chance it would reduce illegal immigration. As the CBO analysis concluded, an employment verification mandate is more likely to drive illegal aliens – most of whom now work on the books – into the underground economy, not out of the country.
May 26, 2008
Wall Street Journal On E-Verify
From a Wall Street Journal editorial: