Is Obama Holding Up E-Verify?

Is Obama Holding Up E-verify?

By Franco Ordonez
This Land, June 15, 2009

Legislators and advocates are questioning President Obama's commitment to enforcing immigration laws after, again, delaying when federal contractors need to adhere to an order to use an employment-verification system designed to identify illegal immigrants.

Originally scheduled to go into effect last January, the Obama administration rescheduled for June 1. The order to use E-Verify has now been pushed back until Sept. 15.

The administration says it gives the president more time to review the program.

E-Verify is a free program that allows employers to verify applicants Social Security numbers with federal databases. We reported last month that more and more N.C. employers are signing up for the program amidst warnings from the government that it is going after unscrupulous employers.

Obamas own Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, has been on Capitol Hill for months advocating for the program.

'I've seen it work,' Napolitano told a congressional hearing in May. 'I used it as a governor. We intend to make it, like I said, an integral part of our ongoing workplace enforcement.'

But with no requirements in place for federal contractors, critics are questioning whether the strong rhetoric is more bark than bite.

'The same administration that rushed through the most massive spending bill in history before anyone had a chance to read it claims to need months of delay to review regulations for a program that state and local governments are already using successfully,' said Dan Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports greater immigration enforcement. 'The fact that we are facing yet another delay demonstrates that gaining amnesty for people who broke our immigration laws remains a higher priority for President Obama than the plight of millions of unemployed Americans.'

Some U.S. representatives like Republicans Ken Calvert of California and Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida are calling on the president to implement E-Verify immediately.

'Frankly, I cannot understand what there is to review,' Brown-Waite said in a statement. 'E-Verify has been in operation since 1997. Furthermore, President Obama was a United States Senator for four years and has had ample time to learn about the E-Verify program.'

Opponents say the program ensnares American job-seekers in database errors, adds to employers' costs and does not actually prevent undocumented immigrants from getting jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that expanding E-Verify could cost $17 billion over the next 10 years.

Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center said the system 'simply isn't ready for prime time.' He points to a 2007 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that states improvements are needed and the program's 'still not sufficiently up to date.'

But U.S. officials say many of E-Verifys earlier problems have been fixed and that the program now has a 96 percent accuracy rate.

Said Rep. Calvert: 'When Americans are losing jobs, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that federal funds are going to employ American citizens and legal workers not illegal immigrants.'