In 2005, the US initiated the I-9 verification program for employers. The I-9 Form is used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the U.S.
Mandatory verification is not good for citizens, can be costly to taxpayers, and may lead to discrimination against immigrants and refugees who are authorized to work in the U.S.
There have been cases when the verification system has made errors. Just last month I received a call from an individual who was sent to the DHS office because her social security did not appear in the system. She had to take time off work to deal with the issue and was almost fired.
According to the Immigration Policy Center, “Approximately 32,800 workers were erroneously fired in Fiscal Year 2009 due to E-Verify. This number would conservatively grow to 617,148 workers in a mandatory system, and independent employers have reported much higher error rates from their own experience.”
Looking at the numbers, the program doesn’t make much sense. It’s clear a simple social security number does not help these tens of thousands of workers who are legally able to work in the U.S. According to the ACLU this could end up costing taxpayers $40 billion over the next ten years if implemented.
There are also grave concerns that the verification process opens the door for more discrimination against residents, immigrants, and refugees who are eligible to work in the US.
At a time of high unemployment, we ought to be figuring out how to put people back to work with a good living wage. The jobs that many immigrant workers have are undesirable to most Americans. Here in the Midwest a meat processing plant job was considered a good position 15 or 20 years ago.
But the wages for packinghouse jobs have gone down so fast and so low, it would be hard to make ends meet even if you worked 60 hours a week. These big companies have been driving down wages, and they are using vulnerable people to justify their actions.
It is easier to blame the powerless than to confront the real problems facing the American workforce. The I-9 verification system, more than anything, gives big companies the upper hand and puts American workers at a disadvantage.