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OPINION

The Supreme Court Gets It Right on E-Verify, Now It's Time for It to Expand Across the USA

In a 5-3 decision this week, the Supreme Court upheld the Arizona law requiring employers to use E-Verify to check the legal status of newly hired employees. The Supreme Court got it right—not only is the law constitutional, it is commonsense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers. Congress should now act to expand E-Verify across the United States.

Many Americans have seen the now famous commercials for the world’s largest office supply chain featuring a big, red “easy” button. When employees are looking for office supplies, they simply press their red button and the supplies arrive with a message “that was easy.”

This famous slogan also could be the motto for the federal government’s E-Verify program. Though E-Verify doesn’t feature a red button, it is a free, quick and easy program that helps American employers comply with existing law and hire legal workers.

E-Verify was created in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This web-based system allows employers to electronically verify that newly-hired employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Specifically, the Social Security numbers and alien identification numbers of new hires are checked against Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records in order to weed out fraudulent numbers and help ensure that new hires are genuinely eligible to work. The program quickly confirms 99.5 percent of work-eligible employees.

Over 250,000 American employers voluntarily use E-Verify and an average of 1,300 new businesses sign up each week (sign up at www.dhs.gov/everify).

While the program is voluntary, federal contractors and some employers in the agricultural industry have been required to use it.

In 2009, a rule went into effect requiring all employees working for the federal government, including Congress, be screened by E-Verify. Taxpayers should not be forced to fund illegal workers and the federal government must be sure to follow the law, down to the letter.

Part of the success of E-Verify is that participating employers are happy with the results. Outside evaluations have found that the vast majority of employers using E-Verify believe it to be an effective and reliable tool for checking the legal status of their employees.

And E-Verify recently received an exceptionally high overall customer satisfaction score – 82 out of 100 the American Customer Satisfaction Index scale. In comparison, the government’s overall satisfaction score is 69.

The program continues to expand and improve. Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services implemented a photo matching tool. This allows an employer to view a picture of the employee – from a green card, an employment authorization document or a passport – to determine that the employee is in fact the person to whom that Social Security number or alien identification number was issued.

We should continue to add photo-matching capabilities to E-Verify to enhance the program’s reliability. It is also important that DHS and SSA work together to investigate any suspicious overuse of Social Security numbers through E-Verify, as these may indicate possible identity theft.

It's estimated that seven million people are working in the United States illegally. At the same time, 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. With unemployment hovering around nine percent for the past two years, jobs are scarce and families are worried. It is wrong that Americans and legal workers have had to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs. It adds insult to injury.

To put unemployed Americans back on the payroll and help turn off the jobs magnet, we should build on the successes of E-Verify and expand this program. As long as opportunities for employment exist, the incentive to enter the United States illegally or to overstay visas will continue and efforts to thwart illegal entry at U.S. borders will be undermined.

E-Verify provides American employers who want to do the right thing with a straightforward tool to do so. Just like the red push-button marked “easy,” E-Verify easily confirms legal workers with just a click of a mouse.

Now, that was easy.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) is the author of the E-Verify program.