Stimulus bill and immigration
Among the many provisions of the $800–plus billion stimulus bill that were hotly debated and horse-traded behind closed doors, one that remained largely under the radar through the negotiations would have forced employers receiving stimulus money to use a controversial federal computer system to verify that all of its employees are legal U.S. workers. Although preliminary indications are that the requirement did not make it into the final version, the battle over E-Verify is far from over.
When it came to the stimulus bill, advocates on both sides of the issue fought hard behind the scenes. Many anti-illegal immigration groups favor the system, run jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. E-verify allows employers to electronically submit Social Security numbers for new hires and existing employees. If there is a match, the employee is considered eligible to work. If not, the employee and the employer have to go through various procedures to try to verify eligibility for employment. Supporters say that requiring all employers spending federal money to use the system is critical to ensuring that the stimulus creates jobs for legal U.S. workers, not for illegal immigrants. But immigrants’ rights groups have pushed back hard, saying that E-Verify is a cumbersome system riddled with flaws and based on inaccurate databases that can all too easily destroy legal U.S. workers’ ability to get or keep their jobs.
“A lot of people look at E-verify as strictly an immigration enforcement tool,” said Michelle Waslin, Senior Policy Analyst at the Immigration Policy Center. “But what people don’t understand is that it would impact every single person who ever worked in the [United States]. Every single person who gets a job would have to be run through the system, which has a lot of errors. And employers don’t always use it correctly. So there could be very bad consequences for us citizens and legal workers.”
Supporters in the House, led by Rep. Jack Kingston, (R-Ga.), were able to pass an amendment requiring employers who receive stimulus money to use E-Verify in the House version of the bill. Although Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) had said they would introduce it in the Senate, they never did. …