Ideology trumps the economy

The Republican Party is characterized by -according to its platform- rejecting excessive government regulation and defending unrestricted freedom for businesses. However, when it comes to the immigration issue, many Republicans become the most loyal defenders of government intervention and bureaucratic regulation.

We will once again witness this show chock-full of contradictions when the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, considers a measure to make it mandatory for every employer in the country to use the E-Verify database, which supposedly verifies people’s eligibility to work. The discussion was scheduled for yesterday but postponed until September 21.

There are several problems with this idea.

First, E-Verify is plagued with errors. Objections about its effectiveness come from both sides of the political spectrum. Progressive groups point to a research group’s analysis showing that more than 160,000 people per year who are authorized to work will have to visit government offices to correct mistakes, since they appear on the database as “not authorized.” Conservative groups say that the system is not useful to identify undocumented individuals, since almost half of them appear as “authorized to work.” Also, the database does not show whether a particular social security number belongs to that person, only whether or not it exists.

In addition, implementing this system will be expensive. Although it is “free,” it requires businesses to train and hire staff to use it and manage the process, at an annual cost of $2.7 billion. The main ones affected will be small businesses, which could also incur expensive fines for mistakes. Agriculture would be majorly impacted, since at least half of its workers are undocumented.

As far as President Obama is concerned, he has said E-Verify is an important tool, but it should be improved and applied in combination with immigration reform.

Making E-Verify mandatory, as is and without other measures, will negatively impact the business community, many legal workers and the economy. But in Lamar Smith’s world, ideology is more important than the economy.