To think that for all these years, we were wrong about E-Verify, the government background check that tells employers whether their employees are authorized to work legally in the United States. We thought the reason to distrust the program was its tendency to get things wrong, ensnaring legal, permanent residents and citizens in red tape, halting their legitimate employment. Now it turns out that E-Verify is not misidentifying legitimate workers in troubling numbers but clearing undocumented immigrants.
According to a recent report by Westat, a research company that evaluated the program for the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify fails to flag illegal workers 54% of the time. The problem is identity fraud. The online program checks a worker's information against Homeland Security and Social Security databases. And if a valid Social Security number is presented, even if it's already in use, the program often recognizes it as legitimate.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says that she doubts the error rate is that high and that improvements to root out identity fraud are being developed. They cannot come too soon. E-Verify is a cornerstone not just of the Obama administration's immigration policy but of any hoped-for comprehensive reform legislation. There can be no agreement between congressional Democrats and Republicans without a reliable enforcement mechanism.