Immigration Legislation Forum: Business community discuss impacts, effectiveness of E-Verify

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/

SAN FRANCISCO (Via teleconference) — A conference call with Washington experts last March 19 (10:00 am PST/1:00 EST) opened with a discussion about recent employer-sanctioning immigration legislation and how businesses and employers have responded to its impact, as well as E-Verify, the federal government’s online employment eligibility verification system.

Guest speakers were Angelo I. Amador, Director of Immigration Policy for the US Chamber of Commerce, Craig Regelbrugge, Vice

President, Government Relations and Research for the American Nursery and Landscape Association and Chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the CATO Institute and author of Electronic Employment Eligibility Verfication: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration. Each shared valuable information and inputs about the current immigration legislation and the role of employers in making the law work for the business and their workers.

Saving the agricultural industry

“The agricultural sector is in a precarious situation,” said Regelbrugge. With more than half of the estimated 1.6 million agricultural workforce unauthorized for employment in the industry, farm employers are scared of recent measures made against illegal immigrant workers. “They (farms) have become sitting ducks and easy targets for raids,” explained Regelbrugge.

Also, the past several years have seen farmers and ranchers throughout the US seeking reform of the H-2A temporary and seasonal alien agricultural worker program and years of congressional testimonies before both the Senate and House Immigration Subcommittees. There is bipartisan recognition of the shortage of legal agricultural workers in the US. The current H-2A program needs substantial reform before most agricultural employers can effectively use it.

The effect is hurting the seasonal agricultural economy, as employers now plant and harvest less, downsizing, while workers move to new locations. “We must take a broader base on reform,” Regelbrugge said and added, “Mass dislocation and deportation is not the way to go.”

Regelbrugge believes that there should be clear and simple rules for employers to follow. “We should be creating a mechanism for people to come out of the shadows.” In California alone, it is estimated that 450,000-500,000 workers are employed each year for the very rich, very labor intensive agricultural industry.


E-Verify, then known as “Basic Pilot,” grew out of the requirement to verify the work-eligibility of workers. A joint project of the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Social Security Administration (SSA), it is an electronic employment eligibility verification system created in 1997 and implemented in all 50 states. It is voluntary for all employers except the more than 200,000 federal contractors required by Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

However, recent changes were announced after immigration reform bills failed to pass Congress. These included requirements for all US employers to use E-Verify. DHS estimates such an expansion could cost the agency about $400 million per year. E-Verify is currently free for employers, but that may change and DHS may shift the burden of paying for this system to employers.

Also, such expansion would create problems as far as data is concerned. According to Harper, the database of the SSA and DHS is not up to date and is in error by 4.1 percent. There is always the possibility that a legal worker may receive a “no match” or non-confirmation for his or her eligibility to work. “This will only increase identity frauds, will drive illegal immigrants into law-breaking,” said Harper and added, “and will cause more problems for US citizens.”

“The system is far from perfect, there are problems in the federal system,” said Regelbrugge.

Pushing for reform

History shows how hardworking immigrants became the driving force in turning the US into a prosperous nation. However, immigration laws for both punish the federal and state levels are confusing a lot of business owners and most are framing employers as the problem.

“A lot of these laws do not make economic sense,” said Amador. He believes that there should be a culture of activism to push for comprehensive immigration reform to increase security and open the pathway to legalization for undocumented workers already contributing to the economy. Another solution is to increase the continuity and expansion of H-1B, L-1, and EB visas for professionals and highly valued workers.

Harper believes that a mandatory national electronic employment eligibility verification system will not only be costly but will also be unable to prevent illegal immigration. It would deny a sizable percentage of law-abiding American citizens the ability to work legally.

Creating such system would require a national identification (ID) system, which will cost about $20 billion and hundreds of millions every year to operate. Harper also wrote in his policy analysis that “Even if it were free, the country should reject a national ID system. It would cause law-abiding American citizens to lose more of their privacy as government records about them grow and are converted to untold new purposes.”

Moderated by Odette Keeley of New America Media (NAM), the bi-monthly conference call, Access Washington, aims to help the ethnic media track immigration reform. The calls are organized in partnership with the National Immigration Forum, the Center for Community Change, the Asian American Justice Center and the National Council of la Raza, and funded by Public Interest Projects.



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2 responses to “Immigration Legislation Forum: Business community discuss impacts, effectiveness of E-Verify

  1. actuatMuh

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  2. wheemnize

    Hello ,

    The way high level executives get jobs costs a little bit of money but it does work for everyone. It does not involve job boards or recruiters and seems to work for just about everyone who tries it.

    This job market is horrible. I just read today that another company closed down. I was laid off two weeks ago. I am worried but not overly so. I know a really good way to find a job that I used in graduate school but I am confident a lot of others will NOT try.

    With only a few exceptions, the only people I know who are getting interviews are doing targeted mailing of their legal resume with cover letters to employers who might not necessarily be hiring. I did this when I was in graduate school three years ago and it worked.

    When I was in graduate school (I went to a top 5 business school), I did not get a single interview through on-campus–but that may have had something to do with my grades. I went to an Ivy League college but did not do well business school–at least not in the top 10%. I did fine in my job search, however: I had at least four offers. I used a service called that EmploymentAuthority to mail out over 500 letters.

    The service cost me over $1,000 but I really think it was worth it. I was getting interviews within 3 days of sending out my letters. I think this is a great way to get a job–even if you decided to do the work you have to pay the EmploymentAuthority guys to do on your own. The service is expensive but it is really too much work to do on your own.

    Be proactive in your job search!! I think the mass mailing idea is the smartest way to get a job by far. The reason is because most law firms when they have extra work do not go out and advertise for associates–they just do not do the extra work. This method of finding a job shows the firms they can get someone to help now without them having to advertise or lift a finger. Plus, most of the firms I approached thought that I was writing them because I knew about them from somewhere. They were impressed I wrote them!

    I ordered the EmploymentAuthority service from the company about a week ago and should be mailing my letters any day. I am sure I am going to get calls pretty quickly (within 3-4 days) after sending my letters. Sure … I will not have heard of a lot of firms that are calling but I am going to have offers I am sure. This is how people are getting legal jobs right now.

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